A sexual harassment tribunal has awarded landmark compensation of £832,711 to the former HR Director of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The court ruling acknowledged that over a period of four years, Mrs Marks had been sexually harassed, victimised, and unfairly dismissed. One male senior member of staff has resigned.
“Devoted lover and friend”
Alan Baines, the then Chairman of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, befriended Helen Marks in July 2010. In March 2012, Mr Baines invited Mrs Marks for drinks to celebrate her upcoming marriage to another man. At the meeting, Mr Baines hugged her and expressed his love, but Mrs Marks put his remarks down to well wishes. Mr Baines would go on to write love letters and compose text messages to Mrs Marks, declaring himself to be her “devoted lover and friend”.
The situation escalated in March 2013, when a male colleague bought a glass of wine for Mrs Marks at a staff party. Mr Baines became jealous, and sent a barrage of text messages to Mrs Marks accusing her of conducting an extra-marital relationship. Mr Baines also threatened to tell Mrs Marks’ husband of the alleged affair. Around this time, Mr Baines received a work-related complaint about Mrs Marks, and took the decision to have her escorted from the building without explanation.
Peter Marks, husband of Mrs Marks, said:
“It was Kafkaesque, it was like being on trial, but with no telling you what you were accused of.”
Sexual harassment tribunal
Mrs Marks took legal advice and launched an employment tribunal. Professor Steve Trenchard, Chief Executive of the Trust, allowed Mr Baines to resign with his name intact (Prof Trenchard was himself later suspended on full pay for colluding with Mr Baines on the termination of Mrs Marks’ contract – he received a £75k pay-off to walk away from his post). The sexual harassment tribunal ruled that Mr Baines’ actions had been devised to “violate her dignity and create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for her”.
Other key statements from the tribunal include:
“We are satisfied that Professor Trenchard and Mr Baines colluded in an attempt to dismiss the claimant or alternatively obtaining her resignation.”
“There was not a shred of evidence to suggest that at any stage she had indicated that she would be willing to enter into a sexual relationship with him.”
After hearing about the pay-off received by Prof Trenchard, Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire MP, commented:
“I cannot understand or believe he has received such a payout when the tribunal has ruled what he did. He should not have had a payoff. That is wrong. And on top of that figure there is the £90,000 he has received whilst suspended. The Trust needs to ask itself some serious questions.”
“I feel totally vindicated”
Following the tribunal’s findings, Helen Marks commented:
“I feel totally vindicated in pursuing the action.
“I hope that the Trust will learn from its mistakes and make appropriate changes to its policies and procedures so that, in future, its staff are not subjected to similar behaviour.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and former colleagues for their support during a very stressful period that I now wish to put behind me as I look to the future.”
If you have experienced any form of sexual harassment or sexual abuse, speak to our expert team of solicitors today. We offer you a FREE and confidential consultation, during which we will listen carefully to the details of your situation and provide you with tailored legal guidance and support. For your free consultation, and to discover how we could help you, contact us today on 0800 888 6 888, or email firstname.lastname@example.org