Pizza Hut ordered to pay a schoolgirl compensation for sexual harassment

A schoolgirl aged 17 at the time who worked as a receptionist at a local Pizza Hut delivery branch has been awarded £15,800 by an employment tribunal after winning her claim for sexual harassment that she suffered at work.

The facts of the case are that the schoolgirl commenced her employment at the Hornchurch branch of Pizza Hut Delivery, a franchise, in June 2016.

From February 2017 a new manager arrived at the branch.   The new manager subjected the schoolgirl to a series of unpleasant incidents of a sexual nature which included shaking left over cheese and other toppings from his hands onto the girl’s face and clothes.   He also attempted to hold her hand, make physical contact by coming up behind her and whispering in her ear.  His advances were rejected by the schoolgirl.

Things came to a head in May 2017 when the manager physically touched the schoolgirl by hugging her and holding her hips without her consent.

As a result of the schoolgirl rejecting the manager’s advances, he reacted by shouting at her and finding fault with her work.  He also told her not to talk to others and he cancelled her shifts at short notice.

The schoolgirl also issued a grievance which was not properly investigated by the company and which did not address the points that she raised or provide any response to her complaints.

Consequently the girl issued a claim in the employment tribunal for sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

The employment judge had no problem in accepting the schoolgirl’s account of the events that had happened during her employment and held that the manager’s actions were unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which created an environment that was ‘intimidating, hostile and humiliating’, particularly given her age and the fact  that she was still at school.

The employment judge also commented that on the balance of probabilities the evidence of the schoolgirl was preferable to that of the Company’s witnesses where their evidence was inconsistent.

The schoolgirl was awarded £13,000 for injury to feelings, and also received an uplift of an additional 15% for the company’s failure to handle her grievance with added compensation for loss of earnings and interest.

This case illustrates that discrimination laws are still very much needed to protect vulnerable employees from such unwanted conduct and behaviour and that even young people are entitled to bring claims where they have suffered.

What is even more astonishing is that the case did not settle and that Pizza Hut have had to wash their dirty linen in public creating adverse publicity for the brand.   It was also found that there was no clear policy or procedures in place for dealing with sexual harassment which is also striking when considering their size and resources.

If you would like more information on implementing anti-discrimination policies in the workplace or have been the subject of discrimination then contact Steven Eckett – our Head of Employment and Senior Associate by e-mail or telephone 0207 703 5034

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