Manager not punished over sex comment

An employment law consultancy has defended its decision not to discipline a male manager after a remark he made led to a successful sex discrimination claim.

Manchester-based Peninsula Business Services lost a case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal brought by former employee Barbara Driskel.

The tribunal heard Mike Huss told her prior to the interview that “she had better wear a short skirt and see-through blouse, to persuade him to give her the job”. It was satisfied that he had made several such comments.

Peninsula is a legal firm with a consulting arm offering advice to employers on how to avoid tribunal claims. Huss continues to work at the firm.

The firm admitted one remark of a sexual nature was made. “It was in the context of a department where there was a fair bit of banter, not just sexual. She took it in good stead and gave an equally amusing remark back,” said Anthony Sutcliffe, director of consultancy at Peninsula.

He argued it could be defensible to use such language in the workplace in certain circumstances.

Driskel began complaining when she felt someone else was being preferred for promotion, Sutcliffe added. She attended the interview in conventional clothing, but left before it ended.

Driskel later refused to work with the manager, and was dismissed. She took her claim to an employment tribunal, which rejected it, but this was overturned on appeal, although she lost the claim of unfair dismissal.

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