Boss told cancer patient she was ‘lucky to get a free boob job’June 23rd 2021
A woman with breast cancer who was told by her boss that she was lucky to get a free boob job from the NHS, has won her claim of harassment.
Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR reports on this recent case.
Aggie Kownacka was a recruitment manager for Textbook Teachers from June 2017 until December 2018.
In May 2018, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was required to undergo surgery.
Kownacka agreed with managing director Sharon Paul that she would spend two weeks off work on full pay following her operation in June.
However, branch manager Kirsty Dunleavy overheard Kownacka telling a client on the phone that she would be off work for 12 weeks.
This led Paul to ask why she needed so much time off as she was in the early stages of cancer, saying: “It’s not as if you’re going to die.”
Over the next week Kownacka was also told that her condition was ‘no big deal’ and that she was taking it too seriously.
Dunleavy also said that the time off would be a ‘massive inconvenience’ and wanted to know what Kownacka would do ‘with all that time’.
On 12 June Kownacka met Paul and Dunleavy and agreed that she would spend four weeks away following her operation.
However, six days later she spoke to Paul to discuss how the operation had gone and was asked to come back to work as Paul was having to fill in for her.
Paul told Kownacka that she was ‘lucky to have a free boob job off the NHS’ and asked whether she would get another free boob job so her breasts matched.
When Kownacka returned to work, Paul suggested she would have a high libido due to her hormone treatment.
She also arranged for Kownacka to make a school visit where the ‘male Polish PE teacher’ would be a ‘treat for her return to work’.
Kownacka didn’t return to work and was signed off sick.
She brought a claim against Textbook Teachers for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sex, nationality and disability.
The Tribunal ruled that she had been harassed but not discriminated against.
Judge Brewer said that while Paul had not meant to cause upset, she had created an offensive environment because of a lack of insight, sensitivity and empathy.
Kownacka’s dignity had been violated.
For more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.