An Insensitive Issue: The Court of Appeal Has Issued Detailed Advice for Tribunals to Follow When Assessing Damages for Injury to Feelings in Cases of Sex Discrimination. Sue Nickson Explains the New Guidelines. (Legal)

Article excerpt

The Court of Appeal's decision in the case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police is set to stand as a leading authority on the assessment of compensation for injury to feelings in cases of sex discrimination.

Vento was subjected to such a concerted campaign of bullying from her fellow police officers that she became clinically depressed and had suicidal impulses. She was later dismissed for alleged dishonesty and poor performance. Having been successful in her employment tribunal claim of sex discrimination, including a claim relating to the dismissal, Vento was awarded 50,000 [pounds sterling] for injury to feelings. She was awarded a further 15,000 [pounds sterling] in aggravated damages to reflect the manner of the dismissal--the employer had compounded the situation through its high-handed actions--and an award of 9,000 [pounds sterling] for psychiatric illness.

In considering the Police Authority's appeal against the level of the award for injury to feelings, the court set out three bands of compensation that it felt should be applied in assessing such an award:

* A top band of 15,000 [pounds sterling] to 20,000 [pounds sterling] to be awarded only in the most serious cases--for example, where there has been a persistent campaign of discrimination.

* A middle band of 5,000 [pounds sterling] to 15,000 [pounds sterling] for cases that are serious, but don't justify an award in the top band.

* A bottom band of 500 [pounds sterling] to 5,000 [pounds sterling] for less serious cases where, for example, there has been an isolated incident. This is the category into which most cases will fall.

The court felt that these bands of compensation should be sufficiently broad to enable an employment tribunal to deal with the particular facts of any claim of sex discrimination. The 500 [pounds sterling] cut-off at the bottom of the bands reflects the view that any lower figure would necessarily be insufficient recognition of the injury to feelings caused by unlawful discrimination. …