Ms S Khan vs SN Estates Property Services

October 2019

Bullying and harassment at work is unwanted behaviour that makes an employee feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. Employers are legally obligated to take measures to try and prevent bullying and harassment, such as making their employees aware that if they feel they are being mistreated, they can report any grievances safely and confidentially without fear of being victimised.

In the case of Ms S Khan vs SN Estates Property Services (SN Estates), Ms Khan was awarded £82,000 after winning seven claims for racial harassment and two claims for gender-related harassment. Ms Khan won her claim not only because of the harassment she endured at work, but because of the way her employer managed her complaints.

Ms Khan described herself as being from a Pakistani ethnic background to the London Employment Tribunal (LET) and worked in the administration and accounts department at SN Estates. The first time she experienced racial harassment from the company director and owner, Mr M Miah, was in April 2017. Mr Miah called Ms Khan into his office to show her photos of his daughter and spoke of his disappointment that she had married a Pakistani man, using a racial slur to describe his ethnicity.

Other examples of racial and sexual harassment Ms Khan experienced at SN Estates include the following incidents:

  • When Ms Khan mentioned to Mr Miah that she was going to meet her husband after work, Mr Miah asked her to run a personal errand 10 minutes before she was due to finish. On her way back to the office, Miah called her and said: “Is that the guy you are going to marry, the small little due? He is an idiot, is he a p*** too?” Ms Khan asked Mr Miah not to talk about her fiancé like that and was offended by the racist term he used.
  • Ms Khan said that Mr Miah also used this racial slur in several other incidents of harassment, for example he reused it when he said she was “stingy” with the amount of sweets she brought to the office and when he complained about not receiving bank account information for a colleague who had recently joined the team as an administration officer.
  • Ms Khan told the tribunal that Mr Miah would call her ‘kamini’, which she said meant ‘bitch’ in Urdu. She had asked him to stop using this term because she found it insulting.

Witnesses also supported Ms Khan’s account because they told the LET that Mr Miah “could be volatile” and one witness described him as someone who could get “a bit upset if things go wrong.”

On 6th August 2017, Ms Khan emailed Mr Miah to tell him she would not be able to come to work the following day because she was stressed and suffering migraines. She did not attend work the following day and her fiancé asked SN Estates for a formal grievance meeting to discuss Mr Miah’s behaviour towards her. Mr Miah refused because he said he did not wish to discuss anything. Later that day, Ms Khan was dismissed from her job.

Due to the account Ms Khan gave, statements from witnesses, a psychiatrist report and email evidence, The LET concluded that the reason Ms Khan had been dismissed was because she wanted a formal grievance meeting, rather than her performance.

To avoid bullying and harassment claims, we advise employers to do the following:

  • Make all members of staff aware that victimisation can make the business liable for bullying and harassment. Employees should be encouraged to report complaints so the organisation has the opportunity to resolve any problems before a tribunal can take place.
  • Create a workplace culture where if someone witnesses bullying and harassment or discrimination, they feel confident about addressing the behaviour in the moment or know how to report the behaviour.
  • Make sure all employees understand what constitutes as racist and gender-based bullying and harassment at the beginning of their employment to make it clear what kind of behaviour is acceptable at work.