Luxury goods group Richemont UK has been found to have racially discriminated, racially harassed and victimised one of its staff in an employment tribunal.
Cheryl Spragg, 56, represented by Fletcher Day, works in the accounts department at Richemont UK, and is on sick leave.
The central London employment tribunal found that Richemont UK displayed a “preference for white continental Europeans” in relation to the recruitment process for a promotion Spragg had applied for, and that she had been “victimised” by the company’s use of covert surveillance while on sick leave.
The tribunal found Richemont UK did not act with “honest and reasonable conduct” and that covert surveillance should not have been its first response.
“There were other more proportionate avenues available that did not involve such a manifest intrusion into the claimant’s personal life,” it concluded.
A date for a hearing to set compensation has not yet been set.
Richemont UK said in a statement: “Richemont works very hard to be a genuinely multi-cultural, racially and ethnically diverse employer, with our teams spanning cultures and nationalities across the globe.
“These are the values that sit at the core of our business. We are therefore very concerned with the findings of the tribunal and will review our processes and procedures accordingly. We are entirely committed to continuing to build a safe and fair working environment for all our employees.”
Parissa Torabi, associate at solicitor Fox Williams, told Drapers that people are becoming more willing to come forward with claims in the fashion sector relating to harassment, discrimination or bullying, and employers have in turn been seen to take these issues more seriously.
“We’ve definitely seen clients being less tolerant of this sort of behaviour – if someone says they have been subjected to harassment, it’s taken more seriously than it perhaps would have been taken more historically,” she said.
“The reputational damage these kinds of claims do to a fashion brand can be quite detrimental,” she added, and said the abolition of employment tribunal fees in July 2017 means employees are more likely to take things further than they would have previously.