Waitress Sexually Harassed By Chef Wins Compensation

RestaurantIt is beholden on all employers, no matter how small, to take effective steps to deter sexual harassment in the workplace. In one case, the owner of a family restaurant paid a heavy price for a chef’s misbehaviour in slapping or touching a waitress’s backside.

Following the incident, the waitress, a student who was working in the restaurant part time, launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings against the chef, the owner and his trading company. She claimed that, far from supporting her in her complaint against the chef, the owner ended up summarily dismissing her.

Ruling on the matter, the ET found that the chef touched or slapped her backside after she put on some lively wedding music. Although she was not particularly upset or distressed in the immediate aftermath of the incident, it continued to play on her mind. The chef’s behaviour impacted on her dignity, ultimately left her feeling humiliated and amounted to harassment.

Rejecting her unfair dismissal claim, the ET found that she had resigned with immediate effect following a fraught meeting with the owner at which she demanded that the chef be sacked forthwith. Due to a scarcity of waiting staff, the owner had in fact been desperate to retain her services and had previously been willing to overlook all sorts of behaviour on her part.

The ET, however, found that she had done protected acts in twice indicating that she might bring legal proceedings in respect of her treatment. In response, the owner had, amongst other things, threatened to blacklist her so that no one else would employ her. She was also informed that she would not receive her back pay and holiday pay until she withdrew her harassment allegation.

The ET noted the small size of the business and the owner’s lack of awareness of employment law. His response to the waitress’s protected acts, however, amounted to victimisation. She was awarded £8,600 in compensation for injury to her feelings, together with £476 to reflect the company’s failure to provide her with a statement of the terms and conditions of her employment.