National Lottery fund told to pay damages to former employee after #metoo row

The Tribunals Service says the National Lottery Community Fund should pay Lizzie Walmsley £6,000 after she was rebuked for speaking out about her experiences as a hostess

- This story has been updated; see final paragraph

The National Lottery Community Fund has been ordered to pay £6,000 in compensation to a former employee after a #metoo tweet she posted about sexual harassment at a previous employer went viral.

A judgment from the Tribunals Service, signed off last week, rules that Lizzie Walmsley was victimised and should receive £6,000 in damages for "injury to feelings" plus £483.94 in interest.

But claims by Walmsley of sex discrimination and harassment because of her gender were rejected by the tribunal.

The judgment says Walmsley was employed as a public affairs manager until February last year at the NLCF, which changed its name from the Big Lottery Fund last week.

It says that in January last year she saw an item on television about alleged harassment suffered by female hostesses at the annual dinner run by the now defunct Presidents Club charity.

Walmsley posted about the case on her personal account on Twitter, which identified her as an employee of the BLF but included a disclaimer that she was tweeting in a personal capacity. 

The tweet said: "Having been a hostess, I can confirm you don’t have to sign a non-disclosure contract unless there’s something an employer wants to hide. 33 years this event has been happening. They knew. #Times Up #PresidentsClub #MeToo #newsnight"

She did not state the name of the organisation she worked for as a hostess. 

After the tweet went viral, Walmsley was asked to conduct an anonymous interview with The Times newspaper about her experiences.

Walmsley had consulted managers at the NLCF about the interview before agreeing to do it.

They had advised her against conducting it, but had not said she should not do it. The interview occurred outside work time.

After The Times published the interview, which did not name her or her employer, Walmsley was taken to task by managers.

The judgment says she was reduced to tears in a meeting with managers and the tribunal found she would have felt intimidated.

Walmsley said the meeting, which was with her line manager and Grant Baskerville, former senior head of policy and public affairs at what was then the BLF, felt like a disciplinary meeting and as if she "was being scolded".

She then raised a grievance about Baskerville’s behaviour, raising several points including how she had been treated at the meeting, the judgment says.

She resigned from her position a few days after raising the grievance, which was subsequently rejected by the BLF, and left in April.

The tribunal, which heard evidence at the London Central Employment Tribunal in December, concluded that Baskerville’s conduct was "unacceptable" and Walmsley’s "sense of grievance was justified".

Walmsley, who was supported by the trade union Prospect, said in a statement she was glad the case was over.

"If we as a society are to eradicate sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour, it is vital that women are permitted to speak out about their experiences without fear or retribution and that the law protects us when doing so," she said.

"The Big Lottery Fund suffered no reputational damage from my actions and for it to come down so hard on me in the manner in which it did was wholly unjustified and I am glad the tribunal recognised that."

A NLCF spokeswoman said the organisation was delighted that the tribunal found that sex discrimination and harassment did not take place, but was disappointed that it concluded there had been some victimisation at an internal meeting.

"We believe the tribunal got this wrong and are considering whether or not to appeal," she said.

- The story originally said claims of victimisation were rejected. 

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