A law firm accounts clerk who faced false allegations of sexually harassing a fellow employee has accepted damages of £20,000 after winning his claim of unfair constructive dismissal.
Zakir Habib won his case against West London firm Asghar & Co twice – at an initial hearing and then on a reconsideration of the question of whether he had affirmed the firm’s breaches due to the time he took to resign.
The firm, having withdrawn its defence of contributory fault, has now agreed to pay the compensation and Mr Habib’s costs.
In July 2014, he came into the office to find that his desk had been “disposed of”. The same day the daughter of principal solicitor Mohammed Asghar, who was also a solicitor at the firm, alleged that Mr Habib had sexually harassed her.
Two days later, the locks were changed so that he could not get into the firm’s offices on Southall Broadway.
Having been signed off work sick while protesting at what had happened to him, Mr Habib resigned some two and a half months later, telling the judge that he had been waiting for an apology that never came.
These and other matters were found by Employment Judge Mahoney to have destroyed the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee. He expressly found that the allegation of sexual harassment to be false.
On reconsideration, Employment Judge Smail ruled: “In my judgment, the claimant did not affirm these breaches. These were serious breaches of contract…
“The claimant had not returned to work. He had been signed off sick throughout the entire period. Part of the sickness was down to stress which was associated with these events.
“The reality of the situation was that the claimant could not return to work until there was resolution of the allegation either by way of withdrawal or apology or perhaps some independent investigation.”