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Marks & Spencer found to have harassed and victimised female worker who contracted HIV


A female employee was harassed and victimised by Marks & Spencer after she was allegedly raped by a colleague at a works party and contracted HIV, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Charmaine Wakelin, 42, said at the time of the alleged attack she was working as a personal assistant at the retail giant’s head office in north west London.  Ms Wakelin told the tribunal that she had been attacked in July 2008 and discovered she was HIV positive later that year.

The tribunal heard that Ms Wakelin’s ten-year marriage collapsed and she went on to suffer depression.  As Ms Wakelin’s mental and physical health worsened, her relationship with her employers deteriorated and she was sacked by the company in 2012.

Ms Wakelin said she had been victimised and harassed after a new manager took over her department in 2010.  She claimed that the new manager had leaked information about her HIV diagnosis to a colleague.

The tribunal heard that Ms Wakelin made a complaint to the retailer’s human resources department but was unable to complete a formal grievance procedure due to acute stress. She was sacked in April 2012 after an internal investigation.

The employment tribunal found in Ms Wakelin’s favour on three of her 16 allegations.  Ms Wakelin decided to waive her right to anonymity in so she could name-and-shame M&S over the way she had been treated.

Ms Wakelin said her strong Christian faith had made her ordeal worse as she believed that God had punished her for being a bad person.  Charmaine Wakelin said she considered taking her own life during the employment tribunal due to he stress of being cross examined in the witness box

Charmaine Wakelin said she considered taking her own life during the employment tribunal due to he stress of being cross examined in the witness box
Speaking after the tribunal, Ms Wakelin said: ‘At the time, the word HIV conjured up horrific flashbacks of the rape. I couldn’t even say HIV out loud.
‘It was absolutely the worst thing that could have happened to me in my life. I was mortified that I had contracted something that I had spent my whole life trying not to get. I was absolutely, fanatically, religiously self-protective against HIV, having grown up in South Africa and being very aware of HIV and Aids. I suffered self-stigmatisation and believed that God was punishing me for being a bad person.’

Ms Wakelin told The Times newspaper that she had considered suicide: ‘The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t want them to get away with it. The humiliation [under cross-examination] was unbearable and completely unnecessary.’

Marks & Spencer said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by the ruling.
A spokesman said: ‘M&S prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer and works hard to create a positive and inclusive workplace.’

The company stressed that the rape allegation was separate to the claims heard by the employment tribunal and were being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.   Scotland Yard confirmed that a man has been arrested on September 19, 2013 who has been bailed.

This story arrives via the Daily Mail.

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