Pub manager was sexually harassed by 'jovial' co-worker

A pub manager has won a sexual harassment claim after a senior co-worker engaged in ‘poor taste humour’.

The Employment Tribunal judge said the case showed that a person’s dignity can be violated even when there is no ‘malicious intent’ on the part of the perpetrator.

Ms J Prewett had worked for Greene King for 23 years. She was manager of the Big Tree pub in Sheffield when she was called for a disciplinary hearing after the pub failed an audit. She was given a final written warning.

Two weeks later she had a meeting with the line manager, Mr Gaunt, and the risk manager, Mr Bentley, to discuss how things could improve.

Mr Bentley made a sexual innuendo during the meeting that left Ms Prewett feeling uncomfortable.

During a follow up meeting he made crude comments directly to her before touching her on the shoulder.

She phoned Mr Gaunt and told him she was resigning due to the behaviour of Mr Bentley and that she wished to make a formal complaint.

Mr Gaunt described Mr Bentley’s behaviour at the disciplinary meeting as him being his ‘usual jovial self’ and that he had told ‘a lame joke’.

Following an internal investigation, Greene King decided there had been no malicious intent on Mr Bentley’s part and rejected Ms Prewett’s grievance.

However, the tribunal ruled that unwanted sexual innuendos could reasonably be perceived as a violation of a person’s dignity and creating a hostile work environment.

Ms Prewett was under pressure at the time of the events and had serious work to do to improve the fortunes of her pub.

Judge J M Wade said: “She had enough on her plate, and the last thing she needed were attempts at humour of that particular kind.”

The tribunal found that she had been sexually harassed and awarded her £5,000 compensation.

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