'I was ousted' | Director sacked after rejecting boss's advances wins £100k payout

Director sacked after rejecting boss's advances wins £100k payout

A mother-of-three who was ‘ousted’ from her job after rejecting advances from her boss has been awarded almost £100,000 by an employment judge.

Marc Bandemer, head of Integer Wealth Global, made repeated advances towards Louise Crabtree throughout 2021 and 2022, calling her a 'naughty girl' and his 'second wife', even complimenting her 'fashion model' looks.

The 59-year-old even bought her a diamond solitaire 'commitment' ring and suggested purchasing a “love nest” in Cyprus for the pair, an employment tribunal heard.

Ms Crabtree initially ignored his advances to avoid risking her employment. But his behaviour turned hostile after Ms Crabtree ultimately told him to stop when he intensified his advances, reportedly demoting her in retaliation, ultimately leading to Ms Crabtree leaving the company, an employment tribunal heard.

An employment judge has now awarded Ms Crabtree nearly £100,000 compensation after she won an employment tribunal appeal on the grounds of sexual harassment.

The tribunal heard that Ms Crabtree joined Integer Wealth Global as Executive Director in April 2021.

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Initially, she shared a “friendly” relationship between her and Bandemer, but it wasn’t long before he began his sexual advances.

The tribunal heard this included Bandemer making remarks calling Ms Crabtree his 'second wife’ and 'naughty’.

The tribunal found Ms Crabtree felt concerned by her boss’s behaviour but, as a single mother, tried to ignore the incidents as she didn’t want to “damage her employment prospects”.

The employment tribunal made clear that her decision not to object to the comments did not mean that she welcomed them, but rather this was a signal that Ms Crabtree “did not want to rock the boat.”

However, in September 2021, when Bandemer’s behaviour 'intensified', she told her boss that his sexually-led comments were “no longer welcome” - a statement which Ms Crabtree said was ignored by her boss.

“I could see he was the authoritative figure and would do what he wanted even if I objected,” she said.

“As his advances intensified, I felt trapped as to what to say or do.”

Following an incident where Bandemer kissed Ms Crabtree on the cheek in front of her daughter, she insisted “clear boundaries” be put in place.

After this discussion, Bandemer reportedly vowed to change his behaviour, but this did not last long.

In May 2022, Bandemer reportedly became “much more hostile” and Ms Crabtree was effectively demoted to a sales director role.

She said: “[He] made it clear I had 'disrespected him' and there were consequences and this resulted in working daily without direction and totally stressing that my job was not in jeopardy.

“I felt isolated and it was clear that I was being ousted by [Bandemer] because I had rejected him, and this daily uncertainty became unbearable mentally and physically.

“I felt I was ousted from the 'boys club' and no longer part of the team.”

Ms Crabtree said she was being punished “for rejecting his advances”.

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Upholding her claims of discrimination and harassment, Employment Judge James Dawson awarded Ms Crabtree more than £99,000.

He ruled the behaviour of Bandemer “was inextricably linked to the fact that [Ms Crabtree] was a woman.”

“Not only because the behaviour reflects the fact he was a heterosexual man who was romantically attracted to her but also because of the gender-specific language used on a large number of occasions such as 'girl', 'honey' 'wife' and 'naughty',” ruled Judge Dawson.

“We have included the word naughty because, in its context, we do not think that [Bandemer] would have written in a similar way to a man.

“We also think, on the balance of probabilities, that the respondent would not have described a man as beautiful and, for instance, sent him a vase saying that the flowers in the vase would never surpass his beauty.”

The judge concluded: “There was a period of harassment when [Ms Crabtree] was asking [Bandemer] to stop and he was not respecting this.

“She did not bring it on herself and it was not acceptable.”

Third of workers experience sexually inappropriate behaviour from colleagues but many are too scared to report it, research shows

Sexual harassment and unsolicited behaviour from colleagues is an issue that all good HR leaders will have their eye on, for almost a third of people have experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour at work.

However, HR can’t afford to simply be reactive in these situations. Proactive measures are vital, especially when considering new research which shows that only half of victims feel confident enough to report it to their bosses.

Groping, stroking, inappropriate comments and threats that it would harm their career if they did not return sexual advances were among the unwanted attention received, mostly from senior colleagues.

Victims described feeling violated, intimidated, ashamed, degraded and scared, but many chose to stay silent rather than report it for fear they would be treated negatively as a result.

The research, commissioned by The Barrister Group, reveals the true extent of the toxic cultures that still exist in many workplaces, an issue highlighted by a number of recent celebrity scandals.

The study of over 2,000 UK workers, evenly split by gender, found that 29% had been a victim of sexually inappropriate behaviour from a colleague. Almost one in three women (31%) were affected, compared to one in four men (26%) and 69% said the perpetrator was someone more senior.

Almost half (48%) did not report the matter and of those who did, many said they felt awkward, isolated, were accused of overreacting and, in 12% of cases, forced to find another job.

The main reasons for staying silent included fears that they wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously, and even that they would be blamed.

Dr Anna Loutfi, an employment barrister and part of The Barrister Group, said: “For many of us, the #MeToo movement felt like a watershed moment which started a wider conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, not just for women and not just at work.

“The fact that sexual harassment is still so prevalent in the workplace is hugely disappointing.

“Recent celebrity scandals may have heightened public awareness of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour, but the reality seems to be that far too many people are still putting up with it for fear that they will be seen as the problem rather than the perpetrator.

“That is fundamentally wrong and must be addressed.”

Worryingly, although most people claimed they knew what constituted inappropriate behaviour, a third didn’t think touching someone’s breasts, slapping their bum or making sexual comments about their appearance was wrong. Women were quicker to call this out than men.

Further, a third (34%) of workers believed their bosses were complicit and happy to look the other way anyway, while a quarter (23%) described their workplace culture as sexist or misogynistic. Less than two-thirds (61%) said their employer had a policy in place to deal with sexually inappropriate behaviour.

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Dr Loutfi added: “It is surprising that so many people still don’t recognise that certain behaviours are wrong, and, for the avoidance of doubt, employers should have clear policies in place.

“There is obviously a distinction between what is unlawful and what is inappropriate, but both are unacceptable in the workplace.

“Employers have a legal duty of care and employees have a right to expect that they will not be made to feel uncomfortable, intimidated or violated in the course of their work.

“There needs to be a culture of openness and transparency, where employees feel empowered to report inappropriate behaviour and are confident that when they do they will be supported and the necessary action will be taken.”

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