ET Sides with Upmarket B&B Worker After Male Boss Claims Changing Sheets is a “Woman’s Job” in Sex Discrimination Case

ET Sides with Upmarket B&B Worker After Male Boss Claims Changing Sheets is a
Photo Credits - Patrick Robert Doyle via Unsplash

An upmarket B&B worker has prevailed in her claim for constructive dismissal after being told that changing bed sheets was a “woman’s job”. Subsequent to the verdict, a hearing to establish her compensation is scheduled for 7 May 2024. In the ensuing discussion, we dissect the facts of the case and the employment tribunal’s judgment.

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Upmarket B&B Worker Claims Constructive Dismissal

Jason Fairfield tells Nicola Nolan Changing the Bed is a “Woman’s Job”

Nicola Nolan started working as an assistant at Appletree’s, a Lake District guest house, in 2019. During proceedings, the tribunal learned that Ms Nolan and her boss, Catherine Fairfield, had enjoyed a ‘good working relationship’. That was until an incident in March 2022, when Mrs Fairfield’s husband, Jason Fairfield, upset the applecart.

READ: Inadequate Resources and a Constructive Dismissal Claim Yield £44,000 Settlement for College Lecturer

On 16 March, the upmarket B&B worker performed her regular duties, including cleaning the guests’ rooms. In the room where Mrs Fairfield and her husband slept, Ms Nolan suggested to Mr Fairfield that he should have made the bed. Upon making this remark, Mr Fairfield allegedly said, “No, it’s not my job to do it; it is a woman’s job”.

According to the husband of the upmarket B&B worker's boss, making the bed is a "woman's job".

Soon after, there was further contention concerning a faulty toilet seat. Ms Nolan claimed she had reported the fault multiple times, but he responded condescendingly this time. According to Ms Nolan, Mr Fairfield said something along the lines of, “Do I need to give you an instruction manual on how to clean a toilet seat?”.

Boss Refuses to Apologise for Husband’s Conduct

Unhappy with Mr Fairfield’s conduct, the upmarket B&B worker raised the issue with his wife. However, Mrs Fairfield didn’t respond to the matter or demonstrate that she would resolve it. As such, between 17 and 24 March, there was tension as the pair limited communication with one another.

Shortly after, Ms. Nolan took sick leave. When she returned on 4 April, she requested a meeting with Mrs. Fairfield. During the conversation, Ms Nolan and her boss heatedly discussed the alleged inappropriate behaviour of the boss’s husband.

According to Ms Nolan, she had requested an apology from Mrs Fairfield. When her boss refused, she had no choice but to leave the meeting. Subsequently, Mrs Fairfield messaged the upmarket B&B worker, apologising for how the morning had unfolded and asking if she should take this as her resignation.

Upmarket B&B Worker Makes Her Constructive Dismissal Claim

Ms Nolan ignored the message, and her boss later responded that she would treat the workers’ walkout as a termination of her employment. As such, Ms Nolan made a constructive dismissal claim to an employment tribunal on 1 September. She also claimed harassment related to sex in relation to Mr Fairfield’s comments.

Tribunal Rules Sexist Comments Violated Ms Nolan’s Dignity

Employment Judge Slater described Jason Fairfield’s comments as “insulting and patronising”. The Judge believed that because Catherine Fairfield omitted to act on the issues raised, Nicola Nolan was given no assurance that the behaviour wouldn’t be repeated.

Mrs Farfield’s behaviour had damaged the trust and confidence the upmarket B&B worker had in her, breaching the terms of the employment contract. Because of this, the Judge ruled that Ms Nolan was constructively dismissed, meaning the claim was successful.

READ: Where Does Workplace Banter End and Harassment Begin?: Employer Sued for Asking About Sex Fantasy

Moving on, the Judge considered Mr Fairfield’s sexist remarks. It was ruled that the comments were made with “the purpose of violating [Ms Nolan’s] dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for [her]”. 

As such, Ms Nolan’s claim of harassment related to sex in relation to Mr Fairfield’s comments also succeeded. A remedy hearing will take place on 7 May to determine the compensation for her successful claims.

Claim Compensation with an Employment Law Specialist

If an employee finds themselves in a situation similar to that of the upmarket B&B worker, it’s essential they understand their rights. Conduct that causes constructive dismissal and harassment related to sex are serious and shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace.

Firstly, employees must familiarise themselves with company policy and procedures regarding harassment and discrimination. If informal resolution attempts fail or the harassment persists, employees should consider legal avenues. 

A constructive dismissal claim might be possible if evidence of an employer’s fundamental breach of contract exists. If an employer’s conduct has violated an employee’s dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for them, a harassment claim might be viable, too.

Contact Redmans Solicitors today if you have faced any of the abovementioned situations. They are employment law specialists, and their experienced team could provide you with the support you need.

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