“Harassed” gay employee allowed to seek damages

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William Majrowski, an alleged victim of workplace harassment by his manager, was today granted the right by the Law Lords to pursue a case of “vicarious harassment” against the employers of his manager.

In a landmark ruling, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead explained how Mr Majrowski’s boss, Sandra Freeman, allegedly “bullied and intimidated him” because he is homosexual and she is homophobic.

Mr Majrowski worked at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust in London as a clinical auditor co-ordinator. Although a formal complaint was first tabled in April 1998, it was not until 2003 that he claimed damages for distress and anxiety under the Protection from Harassment Act against the hospital trust itself.

A county court judge threw out his request claiming that the Act was not supposed to create another level of liability by enabling a case to be put against an employer. The Court of Appeal, however has decided by a majority that the case can go to trial.

Lord Nicholls explained that “his claim was based exclusively on the trust’s vicarious liability for Ms Freeman’s alleged breach of the statutory prohibition of harassment.”

The trust argued that the employers were blameless because the legislation was intended to punish the perpetrators themselves for the anxiety they had caused and not the employers who are targeted just because they have the money.

Explaining the decision, Lord Nicholls said that the legislation is intended to provide protection against bullying at work, amongst other things. If one employee assaults another, then the employer is liable; the same is true in a case of harassment.