Kayleigh Osborne and Emma Osborne (two sisters) were employed by Bhikhu Gondhia (‘BG’), Shailesh Gondhia (‘SG’) and Ashok Gondhia (‘AG’) at a service station. Both sisters were in the age bracket of 16 to 24 years. There were a number of incidents which took place during the course of their employment which led them to believe that they were victims of conduct which was either direct discrimination or harassment:
- Kayleigh was told by BG that she would need a large size uniform top.
- Following an inspection of the Subway franchise which was part of the service station, the sisters were wrongfully blamed regarding the labelling of out of date food, when in fact it was one of their more older colleagues who had made the mistake (and her initials were on the label itself).
- BG told Kayleigh that she should know how to clean properly because she was a girl and that he should not be mopping because he was a man. He also told Emma that “it’s a woman’s work to clean and wash”. On both of these occasions, BG had been drinking whilst both sisters were working.
- The sisters were belittled and unjustifiably criticised in front of customers, such comments included “she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing” and being told that they had put cheese into a sandwich incorrectly.
Both sisters felt that either an older person or a young man would not have been treated in the way that they had been, and so their treatment was attributable to the fact that they were young and/or female. They brought claims before the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) in relation to the various alleged discriminatory acts.
The ET held that the sisters were victims of unlawful harassment and direct discrimination.
They had suffered from unwanted conduct in relation to their gender which was a violation of their dignity and created an atmosphere which could be described as intimidating, humiliating or offensive (e.g. the uniform size comment and the comments about mopping the floor being “woman’s work”). In relation to the incident where the sisters were wrongly blamed for the labelling of out of date food, the ET held that this was an example of direct discrimination since their elder colleague whose fault it had been, was treated more favourably. Throughout the duration of their employment, the sisters had been required to work in an environment which they reasonably found to be degrading, and neither SG nor BG would have treated an older person in the way that they had treated both sisters.
The ET was strongly persuaded by the evidence on cross-examination, highlighting the fact that evidence from BG and SG was inconsistent whereas the evidence from the sisters had been “clear, precise and consistent” and “entirely credible”. In relation to the incident where there was an inspection in relation to the Subway franchise, it was noted that the inspection report had not been disclosed and the ET did not find it credible when SG claimed that it had been lost.
In addition, neither sister had received a statement of their terms and conditions of employment and in a previous judgment the sisters had been awarded sums for unlawful deductions from wages and accrued but outstanding holiday pay. The ET in this hearing commented that BG, who was responsible the administrative duties within the business, “had little or no grasp of the rights of employees nor his responsibilities (and those of his partners) as employers”.
Osborne and another v Gondhia and others t/a Rutaba Partnership, ET/3401426/2014 & ET/3401427/2014