Head Chef Harassed By Lake District Hotel Boss’ Suggestive Singing Awarded £80K by Tribunal

From inappropriate touching to a Victoria Wood song, an employment tribunal recently had to determine whether a head chef was harassed. We dive into the details of this case and highlight the employment tribunal’s judgment.

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Lake District Hotel Boss Accused of Harassment

Mr Nunns (“The Claimant”) began working as a head chef for SBH Windermere Limited (“The Respondent”) on 23 October 2021. This was his first senior kitchen position, and he was understandably excited to work at the Windermere Manor Hotel.

Unfortunately, his positivity took a turn on 31 October when Mr Wilson, the hotel’s general manager, overheard him conversing with a colleague. They were discussing his ex-fiancée, who happened to be male, and the Lake District hotel boss allegedly said, “Oh dear, I didn’t realise you were one of them”.

Exacerbating the situation, Mr Wilson reportedly made inappropriate remarks and sexual innuendos about food on 1 November. Apparently, the hotel boss said, “Do you need some time alone, dear?” when the claimant was holding a cucumber. The claimant also recounted Mr Wilson faking an orgasm when eating his food.

However, that wasn’t the last purported incident, as the tribunal learned of several other alleged occasions the head chef was harassed. He told the tribunal that in the months following his employment’s commencement, Mr Wilson had, among other things:

  • Squeezed his knee and touched his inner thigh during a lift to work
  • Touched his bottom
  • Reached into his chef’s jacket and caressed his nipple
  • Sang a Victoria Wood song to him, which discussed having sex, repeatedly singing, “Let’s do it” while making eye contact and several “disconcerting gestures” 

From February 2022 onwards, the amount of unwanted physical contact supposedly increased. When Mr Wilson went on holiday in March, he apparently gave the claimant a long goodbye hug and forehead kiss. Subsequently, the claimant was absent from work from 21 March until his last day of employment.

No Evidence Head Chef Harassed Claims Windermere Manor Hotel 

On 2 April, the claimant filed a grievance alleging ​​sexual harassment and assault against Mr Wilson. He claimed the Lake District hotel boss had behaved inappropriately towards him, referencing the incidents outlined above. Yet, when interviewed, Mr Wilson denied the allegations against him.

The claimant learned the outcome of his grievance on 22 April but found it was only partly upheld. While acknowledging that Mr Wilson’s behaviour may have been inappropriate on occasion, consequently requesting him to consider his behaviour’s appropriateness, they found no evidence the head chef was harassed.

This led to the claimant appealing the decision, but this proved unsuccessful on 16 May. As a result, he resigned on 24 June and initiated employment tribunal proceedings. 

Employment Tribunal’s Judgment – Was the Head Chef Harassed?

The employment tribunal’s judgment underscored the absence of corroborative evidence, highlighting reliance on the claimant’s testimony versus that of the hotel boss. Consequently, they faced the pivotal question: was the head chef harassed? They were tasked with discerning, on the balance of probabilities, which narrative they found more credible.

The tribunal stated that, wherever contention existed, they preferred the claimant’s evidence. Not only did they find his account more authentic and credible, but they also believed Mr Wilson lacked sincerity. The “unbothered” nature of the hotel boss ultimately influenced this belief, particularly given the gravity of the situation.

While the tribunal didn’t believe all the accusations amounted to unlawful conduct, they found the head chef was harassed. An example of such, included when Mr Wilson sang the Victoria Wood song. Here, they believed that, although singing in the workplace wouldn’t usually amount to harassment, this conduct did. 

They reasoned that despite the original song propositioning someone for sex in a comedic manner, Mr Wilson’s version differed. The way he sang it whilst making eye contact and making several “disconcerting gestures” meant it could have been unwanted behaviour that violated the claimant’s dignity or created a humiliating environment for him. As such, the head chef’s sexual harassment claim succeeded, and he was subsequently awarded £79,119.

Get Help Claiming Sexual Harassment Compensation

The case involving the head chef who was harassed by the Lake District hotel boss is unfortunately not a solitary incident. Many employees face sexual harassment but do not speak up in fear of being treated differently.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work and don’t know how to proceed, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors are vastly experienced in the employment law sector and could assist your claim, should you be eligible.

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