A construction company was responsible for the alleged rape of an employee by its manager after a Christmas party at work, a tribunal has ruled.
In a highly unusual case, an employment tribunal has ruled that Crest Nicholson was responsible for the alleged sexual assault that took place in a hotel following the party at a West End club.
The company had a duty to protect the victim as the party took place on a normal working day and staff could claim expenses, an employment tribunal concluded.
Events at the party leading up to the alleged rape — where the manager allegedly groped another female employee — “cried out for decisive action” from senior colleagues, the panel said.
Instead, the rape victim was left to fend for herself, something she was “ill-equipped to do,” the tribunal said.
After the ruling, the married woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – will be eligible for compensation from the company.
The event started at the club at 1pm
The Cambridge hearing was told she had worked for the homebuilder at the same location as the unnamed manager who allegedly assaulted her.
The company hosted a Christmas party at the Piano Works club in November 2019. More than 80 people attended, the panel was told, and the event started at 1 p.m. and a free bar was open all day.
The woman, who had agreed to share a hotel room with two female colleagues, told the tribunal that the site manager started watching her during the afternoon and described how “he seemed to be there when she turned around”.
Drinking games were played, and another colleague – named only as Mrs V – described him as “sensitized”.
Behavior got ‘ever worse’
The location manager’s behavior “became increasingly worse” and at one point he pinned Ms. V against a pillar and groped both of her breasts, the panel heard.
His behavior was not reported to senior management and he remained at the party.
Later in the evening, the venue manager’s victim — who was drunk and had had five or six bottles of beer — was seen leaving the party with him, the panel heard. Once in a taxi together, the location manager tried to kiss her.
“Her misplaced sense of trust in the venue manager led to her first getting into a taxi with him, where he initially took an unwanted step when he tried to kiss her, and then resulted in her allowing him to accompany her back to her hotel . the court found.
“The Site Manager raped (her) in her hotel room. We determine that she did not consent to any form of sexual activity with him and indeed find that she was incapable of giving such consent in her intoxicated state.”
Site manager fired
The woman took time off from work and reported the incident to her husband, the police and her employers.
The site manager was suspended while the company investigated, but while off work, he called his victim and told her that “both of our families have a lot to lose” in an attempt to “coerce” her, the tribunal heard.
He was later fired for his behavior towards Mrs V at the party.
The woman’s mental health deteriorated and she resigned, the tribunal heard.
She was later told by the prosecution that there was not enough evidence to continue the case against her attacker, and took Crest Nicholson to court for sexual harassment and discrimination.
The tribunal disagreed with the company, which argued that it could not be held responsible for what happened as the incident did not take place at the workplace or during normal working hours.
Labor judge Roger Tynan said: “We conclude that the ordinary layman would say that the events in the taxi and in (her) hotel room … happened on the job, rather than isolated, discreet acts.
“Accordingly… (Crest Nicholson) is responsible for those actions of his.”
The tribunal also ruled that the company failed to take “reasonable precautions” to protect staff at the Christmas party, saying the woman was left to fend for herself when she was targeted by the site manager.
While the woman’s claim of harassment succeeded, her claim of discrimination against the company failed — related to her claim that she was actually forced to quit her job.
A hearing will be held at a later date to decide how much compensation the woman should receive.
A Crest Nicholson spokesperson said: “This judgment refers to unacceptable and illegal conduct that has no place in a personal or work environment.
“While we cannot discuss ongoing individual cases, the health and well-being of our colleagues remains our number one priority.”