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Female computer consultant Tao Ball has won her two tribunal claims against former boss Marc Garcia. She took Marc and his IT consultancy Kelros to the tribunal for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination and won both unanimously.

Mr Garcia claimed Tao had resigned and denied any discrimination but was faced with several sworn testimonies from staff working for Kelros at the same time, which painted a very different picture. Marc was particularly keen on sending explicit pornographic photos to the staff. One such picture featured a clitoral piercing and was subtitled "Tao's next piercing" - she had just had a belly button piercing.

Female work colleagues said they were constantly the centre of sexually provocative comments from Marc in relation to their sex lives, clothes or anything else that came to mind. He also made frequent reference to Tao's possible lesbianism. One occasion that seems to stand out was the day after a Channel 4 programme called "The Clitoris" - part of its Private Parts series - was shown.

According to several witnesses, Marc arrived in the morning and launched into a half-hour rundown of the show, going into great detail and offering personal reflections while growing increasingly "excited". This was despite the fact that everyone in the office had stopped listening to him.

Male work colleagues also reported Marc's distinct difference in approach when dealing with male or female staff. One also spoke of conversations he had had with Marc regarding Tao when she wasn't there. He asked if he also believed Tao was a lesbian, informed the staff member that he had it on good authority that Tao wore a G-string and that her "arse is really tight".

However, it was the start of a relationship between Tao and the company's co-director Najeeb Sughayer that sparked the events that would bring them both to a tribunal almost a year later. Staff corroborated that Mr Garcia's attitude towards Tao changed markedly once he learnt of the relationship.

She was given a heavier workload and repeatedly criticised. Mr Sughayer warned Marc that sending pornographic photos was not suitable - especially if not asked for - but was ignored. Marc became increasingly worried about Tao's and Najeeb's relationship - at one point confessing to a colleague that he was worried Tao would own part of the business.

When things finally came to a head, Marc claims Tao resigned from her job but she maintains she was fired.

The tribunal concluded unanimously that Tao had not resigned but had been fired with no just reason. Therefore she had been unfairly dismissed. Regarding the sexual discrimination charge, it said: "We unanimously agree there was unlawful discrimination. Tao was the unwilling recipient of pornographic material which she could reasonably find offensive and did."

Tao's lawyer, Paul Archer of Lemon & Co told us: "The distribution of pornographic material to all employees, regardless of consent, is completely reprehensible. We are pleased our client was vindicated by this tribunal."

The case will now move to a second hearing in four to five weeks where the amount of compensation Tao is due will be decided. Her lawyer told us she was due compensation for loss of earnings, a basic award for unfair dismissal and more for injury to feelings, stemming from her upset from the unpleasantness of the situation at Kelros.

As managing director and owner of Kelros, Mr Garcia is under no obligation to sack himself. ®

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Kelros home page

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