Akua Reindorf represented the successful Claimant, Helen Marks, in a sexual harassment and sex discrimination case against Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Trust. The Employment Tribunal this week awarded Ms Marks £832,711 for injury to feelings, aggravated damages, personal injury and loss of earnings. See Marks v Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Marks is the former Director of Workforce and Organisational Development of the Trust. In May 2015 the Tribunal found that she had proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that during her employment she had been pressurised by the Chair of the Trust, Mr Alan Baines, to have a sexual relationship with him. It was “overwhelmingly proved” that he had sexually harassed and bullied her. He had sent her jealous and abusive text messages, saying amongst other things that she was a “whore” and that he hated her, and accusing her of having sex with the Chief Executive Professor Steve Trenchard.
The Tribunal found that there was “not a shred of evidence” to suggest that Ms Marks had led Mr Baines on.
When Ms Marks refused to enter into a sexual relationship with Mr Baines he orchestrated an “obviously trumped up” disciplinary case against her.
Mr Baines and Professor Trenchard then colluded with the Chair to remove Ms Marks from the organisation. She was subjected to an entirely unjustified suspension and investigation which were manipulated by Mr Baines “to cause Ms Marks pain”.
When the nature of the relationship between Ms Marks and Mr Baines came to light, he was allowed to leave “with his good name intact”. Professor Trenchard and two other male senior executives, Mr Martin and Mr Hall, assisted Mr Baines in covering up his conduct and preventing any investigation into it.
Ms Marks complaints were ignored for five months and the Trust prevaricated and caused unreasonable delays.
Eventually Ms Marks resigned in February 2014 because of the manner in which she had been treated. She has not worked since.
The Tribunal found this week that the Trust’s actions were the only cause of Ms Marks’ mixed anxiety and depressive disorder. It rejected the Trust’s argument that Ms Marks had a pre-existing psychiatric condition which would have caused her the same problems. It found that she would not be able to work for another 12 months and that she would be unlikely to ever again earn more than £40,000 p.a., less than half of her previous income.
The Tribunal also made an award for aggravated damages because the Trust had not taken Ms Marks’ complaints seriously, had not apologised to her and had treated Mr Baines in a lenient manner.
After the Tribunal hearing in 2015 Professor Trenchard was suspended on full pay. He resigned from the Trust this week.
Investigations by the Care Quality Commission and Monitor, the healthcare regulator, are ongoing.
Akua Reindorf was instructed by Rachel Gaffney, senior associate, and David Potter, partner, at Freeths.