Woman asked for massage by boss wins sexual harassment claim

A woman who was repeatedly asked to massage her managing director has won a sexual harassment claim.

Emma Woolf worked as a sales manager for thermal cooling material provider, Universal Science.

When she booked a two bedroom flat for a trade show, managing director James Stratford said that he would also attend the show and share the flat.

His conduct throughout the dinner at the event was described as ‘inappropriate’. After consuming a considerable amount of alcohol, he ‘leaned his body’ into Woolf as he spoke to her, making her appear visibly uncomfortable to fellow diners.

When they returned to the flat, he asked Woolf for a massage and later asked her to sleep with him. She told him he was being inappropriate, but he later asked again before she went to her room and locked the door.

The following day he walked around the apartment wearing only a small towel.

The incident led to Woolf seeking alternative employment. In the meantime, she continued her work at Universal Science.

After a few months, Stratford started to ask her for massages again. It was a request he made several times.

They later attended a charity dinner where Stratford told a fellow guest that he and Woolf were not a couple but that he had “tried at least 20 times”.

Woolf resigned six weeks later and filed a grievance letter which contained allegations of sexual harassment. She later provided evidence of sexual harassment to Universal Science’s HR manager.

At a formal grievance meeting, an outside consultant reported that there was “no evidence to support Emma’s allegations of sexual harassment” and the grievance was dismissed.

Woolf took the case to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled that she had suffered sexual harassment.

Judge Cassel said that neither the HR manager or the consultant investigated the allegations made by Woolf in a fair or objective way.

A further hearing will take place later this year to decide upon a remedy for Ms Woolf.

Please contact Paul Stevens on 020 8290 7422 or at pstevens@judge-priestley.co.uk if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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