A factory worker has won his claim of sex discrimination after his dispute with a female co-worker was not handled in an equal manner by HR.
Joanne Stronach Director and Head of Employment & HR reports on this recent case.
Michal Swaciak worked as a team leader production line operative for Rowse Honey from September 2012.
In May 2020, a member of his team, Agata Kulaga, was in line for a promotion to the same role as Swaciak, and he was tasked with training and preparing her for the position.
However, the two had a poor working relationship and Swaciak requested Kulaga be removed from his team.
Both were instructed to submit written complaints to the HR business partner, Tracey McMillan.
Swaciak claimed Kulaga had told him: “I will take revenge in your private life.”
Kulaga alleged Swaciak had been “emotionally abusing” and “mentally tormenting” her for the past few months.
She added she would “take action” by getting in touch with the “National Bullying Helpline and other law enforcement agencies” if the complaint wasn’t evaluated by HR “with tremendous attention”.
Swiacek’s scheduled disciplinary hearing was postponed after Kulaga claimed his friends had called her fiancé and made threats.
He was suspended for allegedly trying to impede the disciplinary process and intimidating other employees.
During his absence, Kulaga stepped in as “de facto replacement” in the team leader role.
Swaciak was issued a final written warning following an investigation into the complaints. He returned to work, but on a different shift schedule and under a different production shift manager.
McMillan told Swaciak he needed to alter his conduct and work on his communication skills. He placed Swaciak on observation for six weeks to “ensure that these types of allegations do not occur again”.
Swaciak continued to work on this basis until his resignation in February 2022.
He claimed sex discrimination regarding the handling of the dispute by Rowse Honey.
McMillan was called to give evidence to the Employment Tribunal.
She claimed Swaciak had told her he would “rather file a note” than raise a formal grievance, which he denied.
She added Kulaga’s threat of exacting revenge is the Polish equivalent of saying “go away” or “get lost” in English.
She felt there was no physical danger and that she would have handled the situation the same if a man had made the same threat to a woman.
However, the tribunal “lacked any evidence” of her knowledge or “language ability” in Polish.
Judge Peer stated that Swaciak received “less favourable treatment” than Kulaga, and that his allegation was not “taken seriously”.
He added: “It cannot be said that the claimant’s sex did not significantly influence decision making.”