Doughnut decorator awarded £31k after bear hug complaint ignored

After her employer ignored her complaints and failed to properly investigate her sexual harassment by a male colleague, a teenage doughnut decorator has been awarded £31,000. Her employer swept her complaints under the carpet and then dismissed her.

Miss Merriman’s evidence about a colleague Oliver Horn was accepted by the tribunal. They heard that he had bear hugged her, rubbed flour on her before grabbing her bottom as she backed into a corner.

The tribunal ruled that the incident which took place at Bugibba Independent, trading as Project D, pressured Miss Merriman to ‘draw a line under the incident and move on.’ Clearly the company favoured Horn in an unexplained way. Miss Merriman was 17 years of age at the time of the incident.

In October 2020 Miss Merriman started working at Project D as a doughnut decorator. Her role involved finishing the doughnuts which had been prepared by the bakers. Horn was a baker at that time.

The bear hug incident took place two months after Miss Merriman had started work. They were alone in the canteen when Horn bear hugged her, saying that ‘I bet your boyfriend wouldn't like that,’ to which she replied ‘I bet your missus wouldn't.’ The tribunal did not accept Horn’s comment that he had not touched her.

Miss Merriman was extremely distressed and reported the incident to her supervisor Ms Didluch. The supervisor discussed formally reporting the incident but Miss Merriman said that she did not want to get Horn in trouble. She was prepared to let the incident go if nothing else happened in the future.

Miss Merriman’s evidence was accepted by the panel, when she told them that her working relationship with Horn had soured, with his making comments about her being a ‘pot washer’ because she earned less than he did. He also commented that she should chew gum because her breath smelled.

The panel ruled that the relationship had soured because Miss Merriman had rejected Horn’s sexual advances.

Another incident took place in March 2021 when Horn came looking for Ms Caley, another supervisor. At the time Ms Caley was talking to a member of staff who was upset. Horn asked Miss Merriman where she was. Miss Merriman explained and suggested he leave her alone for a while. 

Horn insisted he needed to know where Ms Caley was and started to shout at Miss Merriman. She became upset and commented to a fellow baker that Horn was lucky she had not reported him for the previous incident. Horn heard her and shouted to her to ‘Come the **** here.’ She refused because she was scared, and he shouted at her ‘**** you’ and walked away. 

Ms Caley heard the altercation and spoke to both Miss Merriman and Horn. She told Miss Merriman that the bear hug incident was going to be investigated, along with other events, and sent them both home on full pay.

The subsequent investigation only took place between the pair and two other colleagues. The tribunal did not understand why only two people were interviewed. Ms Didluch who had been present at the bear hug incident was not interviewed.

One of the company directors, Mr Max Poynton told Horn that no further action would be taken against him. He further told Miss Merriman that there was no evidence to support her allegation.

The tribunal ruled that the company had simply decided to overlook the incidents and was woefully inadequate in their investigation. It had been easier to sweep things under the carpet than to carry out a full and proper investigation.

One month after the incident where Horn shouted at her, Miss Merriman received a letter telling her that Project D could no longer support her employment as a decorator in the company.

The panel had no hesitation in concluding that Horn’s conduct as well as that of the company had violated the claimant’s dignity and created a hostile, degrading, offensive and humiliating workplace for her.

Project D was ordered to pay Miss Merriman financial losses amounting to £6,000 and £25,400 for injury to feelings, totalling £31,400.


Go Back to Previous Page