A former head chef at a prestigious Windermere hotel has won an employment tribunal following sexual harassment.

Mr S Nunns began his first role as a head chef at Windermere Manor Hotel in October 2022 and was interviewed by General Manager Andrew Wilson.

During the interview, the tribunal heard that a congratulatory hug was reciprocal upon Mr Nunns' success.

During the hearing, Mr Wilson emphasised that 'hugging was a thing in the hotel' and that 'the staff who worked at the hotel were a family.'

Mr Nunns told the hearing the hugs being more frequent and increasingly longer made him more uncomfortable and became unwanted and harassment. 

He said a gesture was first made to him not long after he started after he revealed to the manager he had previously had a boyfriend - to which Mr Wilson reportedly responded with a gesture saying "oh, dear I didn’t realise you were.."

The chef alleged that the manager faked an orgasm when eating the claimant’s food which was then followed by hugging, kissing and dry-humping. Once, while Mr Nunns was carrying a cucumber, Mr Wilson made remarks such as 'do you need some time alone dear?' and 'I’ll put olive oil on the orders list again then, shall I?'.

The chef largely took the comments as endearing, complementary and flattering about his food at the time, the tribunal heard. During the same month, Mr Nunns said he accepted lifts home from the manager along with others at time.

He said that on several occasions Mr Wilson slapped him on the knee-cap followed by a light squeeze and a shake and went as far as to place his fingers on his inner thigh. Mr Nunns said that he bought a motorbike at one point to avoid getting lifts.

The manager denied touching the employee's leg apart from one time when once Mr Nunns become agitated about Costa Coffee, where he had previously worked, and said he wanted to break in and take their coffee machines as a way to get back wages he owed. Mr Wilson said he'd done this to calm him down, which was agreed at the tribunal as non-sexual. 

Things are alleged to have taken a more serious turn on November 3 when the manager reportedly put his hand on the chef's bottom while he was in his office. The chef said he headed out the back door of the hotel having suffered a mild panic attack, when he phoned his mother.

Mr Nunns alleged this happened at least weekly and periodically throughout his employment however the tribunal limited this to happening twice. The second time, the chef says he gained the courage to look the manager in the eye and remove his hand however Mr Wilson denies ever touching Mr Nunn's bottom.

In December, Mr Nunns then claims he 'caressed' his nipple reaching under his chef's jacket. After recovering from the shock, the chef said that he left his office for a smoke and saw the manager outside who then gave him a 'look'. Mr Wilson denied these claims. 

Mr Wilson sang "The Ballad of Barry & Freda It”, a Victoria Wood sketch", to the chef while making eye contact and gestures. 

The chef then says Mr Wilson tried to massage his back and shoulders and said that from mid to late Feb the physical contact picked up in frequency.

In March, Mr Nunns wished to leave fight for Ukraine. This never came to fruition however he did go on holiday for which Mr Wilson gave him a protracted hug, kiss on the forehead and said 'love you' before leaving. Mr Wilson stated in the tribunal that he tells 'everyone' he loves them.

My Nunns was then signed off sick between 22 March 2022 up to his termination on 22 July.

The allegations were dealt with internally however a letter sent out by Group People Manager Ms Flint had urged the manager to consider 'if everyone feels comfortable with this physical, tactile environment and also consider that this could potentially be taken out of context' also urging him not to join in with staff's innuendos and 'kitchen banter'.

Mr Wilson had not been instructed to cease hugging or touching staff however and Mr Nunns reported being offended when she asked if he had welcomed Mr Wilson's advances or if they had been misconstrued. 

Mr Nunns had also contacted police about Mr Wilson's behaviour. A letter confirms that the manager was spoken to, but not interviewed, by a Police Constable on 11 June 2022 and was not charged.

The Westmorland Gazette: Windermere Manor Hotel

Tribunal documents detail emails sent between Mr Nunns and Mr Wilson including one sent to the manager in March saying “I love Andrew and love working at the Windermere Manor Hotel".

During the tribunal Mr Nunns said his responses were as a result as wanting to keep his first role as head chef to come back to, that he is from Yorkshire and the way his wording can sometimes reflects that.

Ultimately the hearing accepted the chef's evidence was true and that Mr Wilson's was 'too glib and off-hand.'

The innuendos about food were found not to constitute harassment as there was often 'banter in the kitchen' but they were unwanted. 

It was clear to tribunal members that the frequent and longer hugs became unwelcome over time. After the November 3 incident, the tribunal found that the hugging after that event 'violated the claimant’s dignity and created a degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.'

This also changed the nature of the Victoria Wood sketch song which had been sung by others in the kitchen previously. The 'love you' comment and the massage was deemed sexual and unwanted by the tribunal.

Mr Nunns had also claimed that money had been taken out of his wages unnecessarily however this wasn't upheld. 

A remedy hearing is set to take place where the chef will be able to argue that the loss of pay during the period when he received statutory sick pay only, was a loss arising from the harassment however.

The tribunal decided, 'in the principle of open justice', to lift reporting restrictions to not anonymise Mr Wilson's identity after an outcome had been decided upon.