The EAT has held in Sun Mark Ltd, Lord Ranger, Sea Air and Forwarding Ltd and Ahuja v Kaur that it could not reconcile the tribunal’s conclusion that Ms Kaur’s allegations of sexual harassment were made in good faith with its other finding that she had exaggerated and distorted matters.


Basic facts

Ms Kaur started work for Sea Air and Land Forwarding Ltd at the beginning of January 2018. The company was owned by Lord Ranger and his wife along with another company called Sun Mark Ltd. The CEO of both companies was Mr Ahuja, Lord Ranger’s son in law. The head of finance at Sun Mark was Mr Sharma.

In July 2018, Mr Sharma allegedly started to threaten Ms Kaur, both sexually and physically. She told Mr Ahuja in early September that Mr Sharma “liked” her but that she did not like him “in the same way”. After getting advice from a solicitor, Ms Kaur then emailed Mr Ahuja at the end of September to say that not only had Mr Sharma been sexually harassing her, but that he had also threatened her with dismissal and/or non-renewal of her visa if she didn’t reciprocate his advances.

At a meeting between Mr Ahuja and Ms Kaur on 1 October, he allegedly told her that she would lose her “job, visa and honour” if she pursued the matter. Ms Kaur emailed Mr Ahuja on 4 October repeating aspects of the conversation at their meeting, including his alleged threats that she should not continue with her complaints as she would lose her job, her visa and her honour if she did. He did not reply to the email. On 5 October, Ms Kaur had a heated telephone conversation with Lord Ranger during which he allegedly insulted her “in a way which related to her gender”.

She brought claims of victimisation, harassment and discrimination.


Tribunal decision

Although the tribunal rejected a number of the allegations that Ms Kaur made on the basis that she had exaggerated and distorted the evidence in places, it found that on the whole she had made them in good faith. It also held that, as Mr Ahuja had not replied to her email of 4 October, he had failed to discharge the burden of proof under section 136 of the Equality Act 2010. In other words, he had failed to show that the act of discrimination had not taken place. Further, the tribunal found that Lord Ranger had victimised and harassed Ms Kaur in their telephone conversation of 5 October.

Sun Mark Ltd, Lord Ranger, Sea Air and Land Forwarding Ltd and Mr Ahuja appealed, arguing that the tribunal had approached the issue of bad faith in the wrong way; it had perversely concluded that Mr Ahuja had victimised Ms Kaur at the meeting of 1 October; and it had not engaged with Lord Ranger’s explanation that he had reacted in the telephone conversation on 5 October in the way that he had, not because Ms Kaur had made allegations of sexual harassment but because of the way in which she had gone about it. Mr Sharma also appealed but his appeal was dismissed at a preliminary appeal hearing.


EAT decision

The EAT allowed the appeals in part, holding that:

  1. The tribunal’s conclusion that Ms Kaur’s allegations had, on the whole, been made in good faith could not be reconciled with the finding that she had also exaggerated and distorted matters.
  2. The tribunal was wrong to rely on section 136 of the Equality Act to find that Mr Ahuja had made the alleged comments in their meeting.
  3. The tribunal had failed to properly consider Lord Ranger’s argument that he could not have victimised Ms Kaur during their telephone conversation because he was objecting to the way in which she had raised the allegations against Mr Sharma, not the fact she had done so.

However, the EAT rejected the argument that it was perverse for the tribunal to find that Lord Ranger had discriminated against Ms Kaur and harassed her as it had provided adequate reasons for that conclusion.

The EAT remitted the case to the original tribunal so that it could reconsider these issues.