In the vast majority of cases, claims are the result of genuine grievance
The Daily Mail, one of the arch proponents of the theory that we are all sinking underneath the burden of the compensation culture, have recently produced an article listing a number of silly compensation claims that have been made, and very humorous reading it is.
However, a closer look reveals a very different story.
One of the most ridiculous claims cited in the list was an apparently frivolous claim made by a waitress against her employers for, according to the Daily Mail, ‘gingerism’. The Mail says, in tones of righteous outrage, that the waitress, Sarah Primmer, received over £17,000 in compensation from an Industrial Tribunal just because comments were made about her ginger hair.
But an examination of the facts of the case shows that Sarah Primmer, according to the Industrial Tribunal, suffered from regular sexual harassment and innuendo over a period of 6 months and with some of the comments by the café night manager being directed towards wanting to know whether the colour of the hair on her head matched rest of the hair on her body.
This type of enquiry is sometimes framed as asking whether ‘the collar and the cuffs match’. Rather than this being a little light hearted banter it appears that this formed part of a lengthy and concentrated campaign of sexual harassment.
Matters came to a head when Ms Primmer was dismissed from the job whilst off work sick and after her employer had refused to accept her doctor’s sick note.
So far from being a ridiculous case of ‘gingerism’ as portrayed by the Mail, this was apparently a serious sexual harassment case culminating in the sacking of an employee in highly questionable circumstances.
Even the most hard bitten insurance professional might struggle to find that the real facts of this case support a compensation culture argument. After all, how many of us would be happy at the thought that our wives, daughters, sisters or mothers might have to put up with this kind of behaviour by an employer without having redress?
Andrew Welch is Head of Litigation at Stephensons