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HARSHA GORDHAN WINS EQUAL PAY CLAIM AND SEX HARASSMENT CLAIM – Press Release

This week our Elliot Hammer, Head of Employment Department was successful in the Watford Employment Tribunal for our client Ms Harsha Gordhan in her Equal Pay Claim and Sex Harassment Claim. The Respondents were charity Sangam Association of Asian Women Ltd (“Sangam”) and Mrs R Mistry. 

Trial dates:                                            1 August 2021 – 5 August 2021

Judgment handed down:                       2 November 2021

Remedy hearing set down for:               8 December 2021

Background Facts

Sangam is a not-for-profit charity based in Burnt Oak Broadway, Edgeware in Middlesex. It gives legal advice on welfare, debt, immigration, housing and domestic violence to its surrounding area. 

Ms Gordhan was employed by Sangam Association of Asian Women Ltd as an Immigration Adviser on 15 February 2018. At the time she was a qualified solicitor. She had been practicing in Immigration and Asylum work since July 2006. A Mr Franklin Modebola was also working as an Immigration Adviser for Sangam. Both Immigration Advisers worked on Level 1 and Level 2 immigration casework.   

Ms Gordhan’s case was that as a young woman she was discriminated against, harassed and paid proportionately less when compared with Mr Modebola’s pay, by members of Sangam’s Board because of her sex.  She relied on several incidents in support of her case. Some incidents were alleged to be due to her young age and marriage and given those facts, the assumption on the part of Sangam that she would become pregnant.  

Ms Gordhan claimed that on her first day of work, at a meeting on 15 February 2018, the President of Sangam, Mrs Sudha Sangani, exclaimed after a 5-minute conversation with Ms Gordhan “Oh, you’re married!”. Ms Gordhan claimed that Mrs Sanghani was surprised and shocked, “in a bad way” “as though she was thinking, “We have employed a married woman” and that “the respondents knew that she was 34 years old at the time and that, as a married woman, she would be getting pregnant and would request maternity leave”.  Mrs Sangani claimed that it was Ms Gordhan who had asked her who her daughter was married to and she had said “To a Patel” and that rather than say “Oh you’re married” Mrs Sanghani had said “Oh, you are married to a Patel too”. 

Sangam gave evidence that they “had previously employed a female Immigration Advisor, who became pregnant and was on maternity leave for six months. (Sangam) also had three female members of staff who became pregnant, went on maternity leave…..”.

The tribunal found that Mrs Sanghani had said “Oh, you are married to a Patel too” and that this was not sex harassment. 

On 13 July 2018, Ms Gordhan made a request to her manager that she be allowed to offer Level 3 Immigration advice to clients.  Her previous practice included providing level 3 immigration services to her clients at law firms. As Sangam was not a law firm, Ms Gordhan was required to undertake a level 3 exam in order to provide level 3 immigration services.

Finding of Sex harassment

On 16 July 2018, Mrs Gordhan had a meeting with Board members, including the 2nd Respondent Mrs R Mistry and Mrs Sanghani, about her level 3 request.  There was an evidentiary dispute about what was said during the meeting. Ms Gordhan claimed that her request to take the level 3 examination was refused during the meeting and that the behaviour and attitude of Mrs Karnani and Mrs Mistry made it clear they did not want her to take the level examination. Ms Gordhan claimed that Ms Mistry said “But you are married and you will get pregnant”.   Ms Mistry’s evidence was that she had “raised a concern and asked the claimant if she was unable to work because of pregnancy, who would take over her cases”.  

Employment Judge Bedeau found at paragraph 71 of the judgment: 

We find that Mrs Mistry did make the comment about what should happen to the claimant’s cases should she become pregnant. .. It was not appropriate to refer to the claimant becoming pregnant rather than her being on long-term absence for any reason

Equal Pay Claim

Mrs Gordhan was paid £24,000 pro rata as Immigration Advisor. Mr Modebola, the other Immigration Adviser, was paid £25,000 pro rata. The tribunal found that, paragraph 83 “on the evidence we find that both the Claimant and Mr Modebola were engaged in like work”. The tribunal also found, at paragraphs 128 and 139 

The Discriminatory treatment continued up to the Claimant’s resignationHaving considered the work done by the claimant and by Mr Modebola, the knowledge and skills required to do them, there were no differences in the work they were doing save for the claimant being engaged in more cases and was able to speak a few South Asian languages. We have come to the conclusion that the claimant and Mr Modebola were engaged in like work. A sex equality clause will be included in her employment contract”.

Ms Gordhan resigned on 12 October 2018 claiming constructive harassment dismissal and constructive discriminatory dismissal. These claims were not upheld by the tribunal.  

The full judgment will shortly be posted on the Employment Tribunal Decisions website here.  

Ms Gordhan is currently Crowd Funding her legal fees here. Our client would be very grateful for any small financial help that can be offered. 

It is difficult to prove Sex Harassment and Equal Pay Claims in the Employment Tribunal. I am very pleased I was able to successfully represent Ms Gordhan in the Employment Tribunal 

Elliot Hammer, Head of Employment Department

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