A female long-distance lorry driver from Berkhamsted has succeeded in a claim for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal against local haulage firm Trans Haul (EU) of Leighton Buzzard.
Bedford Employment Tribunal awarded Sue Barnard, 46, more than £34,000, including £18,000 for sex discrimination, in compensation for her treatment by Trans Haul over a period of 3½ years. She was dismissed by telephone in April after raising complaints with management about harassment she had suffered at the firm.
Ms Barnard said: “I’ve worked in haulage for 24 years and I was used to being the only female lorry driver in a male environment. I can take a bit of banter, but this was much more serious than anything I’d experienced before. It was management that were the problem, not my male colleagues, who I got on really well with. Every day the managers used to find some excuse to pick on me, criticise my work, call me up in the middle of the night to change my shifts or give my designated truck to somebody else. Male drivers weren’t treated the same way - only me. It was relentless and made me turn from a bubbly, upbeat person into a scared wreck. A couple of months after I’d got up the courage to complain, they accused me of misconduct and suddenly sacked me without any warning. They didn’t even pay me all the notice pay I was owed”.
Despite being notified of the claim, Trans Haul failed to put in a defence or turn up to the compensation hearing on 9th December. The Tribunal increased Ms Barnard’s unfair dismissal compensation by 25% to reflect the way Trans Haul handled the dismissal.
Ms Barnard’s claim was supported by her union, Unite. She said: “I was so grateful for Unite’s help - I couldn’t have brought this case without their assistance.
Alan Brkljac, Regional Officer of Unite said: “This is a terrific result for Sue and a very well deserved one. I have rarely encountered such absolute hostility from an employer towards an individual employee. There seemed to be absolutely no reason for Trans Haul’s attitude to Sue other than her being a woman. Unite is always willing to support its female members to ensure that they receive fair treatment at work”.
Jane Farrell of Pattinson & Brewer Solicitors, who represented Ms Barnard, said: “Sue had a very upsetting time at Trans Haul and I am pleased to see that the Tribunal recognised that by awarding her such a large sum in compensation. It is rare to get an award of this level for sex discrimination and I hope it sends out a message to employers that treating female staff this way is unacceptable”.