Company boss ordered to pay female employee £35k for months of ‘unwanted sexual conduct’

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Purpose Harris subjected Lorraine Shotton to months of “unwanted sexual direction” after he was unable to shake off his “sexual infatuation”, an employment tribunal start.

Ms Shotton, who started as a secretary and worked her way up to be general manager of Somerset-based upholstery trade The Foam Shop, was awarded the payout despite initially “flirting” with her boss.

Value Matthews made the finding having heard how at an office party, after reporting that she used to be “a cage dancer in Ibiza” and was “not wearing any knickers”, she began to cavort and “was pushing herself into Mr Harris in a provocative manner”.

But as time recalled on she “changed her mind”. In November 2016 Ms Shotton made it clear to Harris that his notice was unwelcome after an incident during which – when offered a bacon bap – he rose, “No, I want you” and lunged at her.

At the end of a meeting a year later, he cuddled her and asked: “Can I Harvey Weinstein your a***?”

 

She later eradicated to him: “I felt I had no choice. I left the two-hour meeting once again feel violated.”

Ms Shotton lodged a grievance at work but it was rejected. After being accused of heavy misconduct, she quit her job in April 2018.

Judge Matthews found that Harris “could not prevail over his infatuation with Ms Shotton, could not change his behaviours in any significant way and carted his frustrations out on Ms Shotton in the workplace”.

He and his company have now been ordered to pay £25,000 added £2,728.77 in interest.

Mark Harris Upholstery Ltd must also pay £7,220 throughout Ms Shotton’s unfair and wrongful dismissal, taking the total payout to enveloping £35,000.

Harris, 59, started Mark Harris Upholstery, now The Foam Boutique in Taunton, in 1986.

He turned it into a thriving business, appearing in many of its promotional videos, embodying one in which he is featured lying on a bed with a scantily clad model.

Ms Shotton, a ancient police officer, joined in 2013 as a clerical assistant, but rose to behoove general manager just 18 months later.

She was “not above try oning” with her boss, the judge said, and she told the tribunal that Harris at key “was charming, funny, complimentary and we became friends”.

But the boss “gradually announced” unwanted touching. After making it clear this must over, he became “sulky” and “intimidatory”.

Judge Matthews in his ruling said: “The convergence on 18 November 2016 saw Ms Shotton drawing a clear line.

“From then on, Ms Shotton did not wish any physical contact with Mr Harris. She wanted to be left alone in that respect and allowed to get on with her job.”

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