The former chief executive and co-founder of a now defunct social enterprise and her partner have won damages totalling more than £81,000 from the organisation for discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation.
Paula Temple, former head of Future Arts, which promoted creative technology in the visual and creative arts to disadvantaged young people, and her partner, Stefanie Boulila – who worked in public relations for the company – have been awarded £58,714 and £22,840 respectively.
The award was made on 21 May by Leeds Employment Tribunal after a remedy hearing – a separate hearing to decide the level of compensation.
Temple also won a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. Claims of constructive dismissal by Boulila and of victimisation were dismissed.
But solicitors for the pair said they would not receive any money because the social enterprise went into liquidation shortly after the judgment was made.
The judgment says that evidence from people appearing on behalf of Future Arts "fluctuated between vague and imprecise; verbose and evasive; exaggerated and unreliable; and malicious and irrelevant".
It says that the working relationship between the couple and fellow senior members of staff broke down after an informal training day in November 2011. At one point that day Temple, who was ill with flu, was comforted during a break by Boulila, who stroked her hair and give her a "peck or two of a kiss" in front of other staff, the judgment says.
The tribunal, it says, did not consider the couple’s behaviour to be overtly sexual, but was characterised by "one partner in a relationship comforting the other whom she and others knew to be unwell".
But it says that a senior member of staff had later berated the couple for their behaviour and told them it amounted to bullying of other staff members. The organisation’s funding from the Big Lottery Fund would be at risk if the behaviour were discovered, this person claimed. The tribunal said this was without foundation.
The tribunal noted that a heterosexual couple at the company who had also displayed mild affection to each other on previous occasions had not attracted opprobrium from the same staff member.
The day after the training day, the same senior member of staff confronted Temple in her office and threatened to resign and take the matter to the board unless Temple admitted that her behaviour amounted to bullying, the judgment says.
Temple refused. Later that day she collapsed in a supermarket; she was signed off work with stress until January 2012.
During this time, Boulila’s role at the company was sidelined, the judgment says, and she was threatened with redundancy, although this never happened. Instead, she was made to work from home, "ignored and ostracised" by the company, the judgment says.
Temple returned to work in mid-January but felt continually undermined in her role by other senior staff, and both she and Boulila resigned on 1 February 2012.
After the remedy hearing, Temple and Boulila released a statement through their solicitors, Minster Law.
"We are very happy that our claim for justice was recognised by the tribunal," the statement said. "There is a general belief that discrimination doesn't happen any more, even though it is an everyday reality in a lot of people's lives."
Future Arts went into liquidation shortly after the tribunal gave its judgment – the administrator is Moorhead Savage Limited.
"It liquidated either as a result of the case or to avoid paying out, which means the two claimants won’t receive the money," a spokeswoman for Minster Law said.
Former members of Future Arts were contacted by Third Sector through their tribunal solicitor but did not respond to requests for comment.