Two Pizza Hut employees have succeeded with their sexual harassment claims after an employment tribunal ruled in their favour. Despite making complaints to the franchise owners, both employees were wrongfully dismissed. We explore what happened in the case and outline why their coming forward was a victory for such cases.
Should you have experienced something similar, we discuss when you could be eligible to claim compensation and who could be liable. If you have any questions about sexual harassment claims, read Redmans Solicitors’ Guide for more information. Alternatively, get in touch with them today by:
Sexual Harassment Found in Pizza Hut Franchise
Pizza Hut employees Ms Sian Murphy and Mr Kailam Fearn worked at the Neath and Port Talbot franchises, respectively. In June 2021, both were dismissed for gross misconduct after making sexual harassment allegations against their managers.
Ms Murphy’s manager, Mr Rhys Stephens, said her nipples were “like cut diamonds” while in the store’s refrigerated room. On a separate occasion, he told her, “She shouldn’t bend down like that in front of men,” when she picked something from the floor.
Mr Fearn’s manager, Mr Dean Green, sent the claimant a Snapchat photo while in the bath, looking at the store’s CCTV. He also told Mr Fearn that he had “sexy legs” and requested a threesome.
Following the inappropriate conduct, both employees complained about their respective managers to the franchise. However, instead of investigating the incidents, the franchise dismissed Ms Murphy for gross misconduct. They reasoned she’d stolen, had poor performance and breached their social media policy, but these accusations were deemed to be false.
Similarly, when Mr Fearn made complaints, they weren’t dealt with correctly either. Initially, he was told they would be investigated, but he was suspended and later dismissed for gross misconduct. This time, the franchise reasoned the employee had stolen food, left the store unattended and used his mobile phone.
Moreover, Upon going to trial, the franchise’s owner accused Mr Fearn of encouraging a vulnerable individual to sell intimate footage of themselves online. However, the tribunal ruled these accusations false, just like the reasons for Mr Fearn’s dismissal.
As a result, the tribunal held that both employees had been subject to sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal. Therefore, a separate trial is yet to take place next year to determine their compensation.
Half of Employees Don’t Report Sexual Harassment
The Pizza Hut employees’ win could be seen as a victory for sexual harassment cases in a broader scope. This is because The Barrister Group published research earlier this year stating that 29% of workers have experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour, but 48% didn’t report it.
Those respondents said they didn’t believe their complaints would be taken seriously or worried they’d be blamed. Of the ones that did, 12% were forced to find alternative employment. Also, in similar circumstances to the Pizza Hut case, 69% of those who’d experienced such behaviour said it came from a more senior colleague.
This highlights that harassment still occurs in the workplace, and something needs to be done to address the shortfalls in supporting those who’ve experienced it. Employers need to ensure employees feel comfortable about reporting such incidents and believe their complaints will be taken seriously.
When Can People Make a Claim?
Under the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment occurs when an individual engages in unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that:
- Violates another’s dignity or
- Creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for another person.
To claim on such grounds, one must be an employee, a contractor or a job applicant. An eligible individual could claim against the person who harassed them and potentially their employer if they’re vicariously liable. This occurs when an employer doesn’t take all reasonable steps to protect the individual from such an incident.
Employers could also be liable if they fail to deal with an incident correctly after it has occurred. This was the case with the Pizza Hut employees, where they each suffered wrongful dismissal.
Furthermore, since employers have a duty of care to protect their employees’ welfare, incorrectly dealing with a complaint could see the employee resign and then face a constructive dismissal claim. However, it’s important to note that seeking expert advice before resigning from a company is always best, as it could make claiming compensation more difficult.
If you’ve experienced sexual harassment, get in touch with Redmans Solicitors today. They are expert employment lawyers and can discuss your case to discover its validity. If eligible, they could support you through the legal process.
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