A City finance worker was sacked for exposing his 'tight' underwear to a female colleague on a Zoom call – then blamed his pet puppy for the incident, a tribunal heard.
The Daily Mail has reported on the case of Philip Taylor, who allegedly lowered his laptop camera 'deliberately' during a work video call, revealing his underpants and parts of his thighs and groin to a shocked female colleague.
The 'distressed' co-worker said it was 'in no way an accident' and that Taylor ‘100% wanted her to see his underwear', a London Central Employment Tribunal heard.
The tribunal also reported that Taylor, a married father, was said to have messaged his colleague on social media saying 'you look like you need sausage'.
When called to a disciplinary hearing following the incident, Taylor gave an 'implausible' explanation about the Zoom incident.
He claimed there had been a 'melee with his puppy', which caused his watch strap to become caught and 'pull down his laptop screen to an angle which revealed his shorts'.
He also claimed he was wearing just his pants due to the hot weather on the day in question.
Taylor’s explanation was not believed, and he was fired from his role. He took his firm to employment tribunal but a judge ruled he was not unfairly dismissed.
However, he partly won a wrongful dismissal claim and was awarded three months pay. This, the Daily Mail said, was because the complaining colleague did not give evidence at the tribunal, therefore giving the judge no ability to “conclude for sure that Taylor did what was alleged on the Zoom call.”
Sexual harassment training ‘needs updating’
A recent TalentLMS and Purple Campaign report polled over 1,200 employees, and found that 92% of women surveyed said that unwanted physical contact counts as sexual harassment, compared to 78% of men survyed.
Suggestive remarks were considered harassment by 88% of women and just 69% of men; likewise, sexual jokes were frowned upon by 86% of women and 69% of men.
Additionally, 73% of women surveyed said comments regarding someone's gender identity and expression were sexual harassment, compared to 47% of men.
“There is still a long way to go in educating employers and employees,” said Christina Gialleli, Director of People Ops at TalentLMS, said in the research.
“With over 75% of women and 85% of men reporting they feel safer at work after having received training, it’s clear that sexual harassment training needs to be a part of every company’s yearly curriculum.”
Challenges for HR
Commenting on inappropriate treatment in the workplace, the Employment Team at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen previously told HR Grapevine: “Workplace mistreatment and discrimination needs to be demystified. This starts with arming employers with the tools and training to combat discrimination and create spaces where everyone feels valued and respected.
“Discrimination can be difficult to define and insidious, and often employees and employers alike aren’t aware of the many forms it can take, such as subtle microaggressions. But by giving businesses and individuals the knowledge and confidence to identify and respond to such issues, there can be tangible improvements.”
Zoom blunders lead to sackings
With recent research finding that a quarter of bosses have admitted to sacking an employee because of a ‘Zoom blunder’, and with the reported actions of employees impacting their roles, is it time that HR leaders introduce work policies for Zoom calls and explicitly detail the repercussions of inappropriate behaviour?
Andrew Willis, Head of Legal at Croner, believes so. He previously told HR Grapevine: “An employer's specific policy on conduct while at work should be applied to those working from home temporarily as a result of the pandemic. Those who have a remote working contract and are not working from home as a result of the pandemic should already have an agreement in place as to the conduct expected from them while performing work for the employer.
“Therefore, unless it has been previously agreed that a remote worker will be held to different standards of working, employers should treat all staff working from home as though they were in the main office setting.”