Sexism in the workplace – Police on the wrong side of the law

Sexism in the workplace – Police on the wrong side of the law

A claimant has been awarded almost £1 million compensation after it was found she had experienced sexism in the workplace and suffered victimisation at the hands of her employer, the Police Service of Scotland.

The claimant worked as an Authorised Firearms Officer (‘AFO’) for the respondent and was one of two female AFOs in her team which had, in the words of one witness, an ‘absolute boys club culture’. Numerous examples of this ‘boys club culture’ were put to the tribunal in evidence. One Inspector had previously talked of a male colleague ‘f***ing’ a female colleague and had referred to the pregnant wife of another as a ‘f***ing fat bitch’. Topless photos of women were also shared by the same Inspector on a WhatsApp chat of which male sergeants of the team were members. The claimant herself had previously been told by a senior colleague that women should not be AFOs as they menstruated. Further, she had been told to ‘f*** off’ when requesting that female officers be allowed to wear trousers and a top rather than a one-piece as the one-piece made it difficult to use the bathroom without removing a gun belt and armour.

Whilst the above examples were used to demonstrate the general atmosphere of sexism in the workplace within the claimant’s team, the central issue in the case was an email in which an Inspector stated he was going to ‘open [him]self up to being accused of being sexist’ as he suggested that he did not want to see two female officers deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty. The reasoning given for this was that, apart from the ‘differences in physical capacity’ it would make ‘more sense from a search, balance of testosterone perspective.’

The claimant successfully argued she had been victimised on a number of occasions after having complained and raised a grievance about the email. Examples of sexism in the workplace and victimisation carried out by the respondent included threats that the claimant’s firearms authority would be withdrawn and / or she would be moved out of the team. The respondent also failed to deal with a second grievance and to carry out an investigation of the complaints made.

The claimant has now received £948,000 in damages and costs from the respondent.

This blog was written by Jack Dooley and Michael Green, Trainee Solicitors at didlaw.