Professor Heather Savigny – harassment and victimisation

Professor Heather Savigny was a senior academic at a reputable UK University. After a female student in her department disclosed to Heather that she had been assaulted by a senior academic within the same department, Heather supported the student through making a formal complaint to the University. She acted as a witness in the investigation into the student’s complaint, which amounts to making a protected act under the Equality Act 2010. Heather also continued to be a source of moral and academic support for the student. When the student’s complaint was not upheld, and she continued to suffer from the assault and the presence of her assailant, Heather engaged in additional protected activity by advocating for the student to the administration. 

However, Heather quickly realised the University wanted her to remain silent, and to cease her support of the student, something she felt morally and legally unable to do. As a result, she was subjected to intimidation in the form of threatening messages and meetings with her employers pressuring her to be quiet and discouraging her from having contact with the student. She was made to feel that her own role at the University would be at risk if she continued to support the student. The stress and emotional upset this caused lead Heather to suffer a psychiatric injury. A workplace she had been dedicated to became a source of fear and strain. Her ability to work was impaired, as was her ability to enjoy her life.

We advised Heather on the internal grievance process at her University, and on her options in law, including the option to file with Acas and/or to bring claims for harassment and victimisation against her employer in the Employment Tribunal. Our advice enabled Heather to reach a resolution that allowed her to stay true to her morals and to pursue a happier and healthier future for herself.

“I cannot thank you enough for what you have done. You have just been brilliant. The tone of your emails to [the defendant] has been so perfect and has made me feel very powerful.”

“I already feel like a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders, and yes, feel actually excited about the future.  […] Huge kudos to you on that.”

“So thank you again, for your fantastic work.”