Employer who dismissed attempted kisses as cultural misunderstanding told to pay £24,000

Case originally struck out for non-payment of fees, but brought back after 2017 Supreme Court decision

Employer who dismissed attempted kisses as cultural misunderstanding told to pay £24,000

A worker whose employer dismissed her Spanish colleague’s attempts to kiss her as a cultural misunderstanding has won her sex discrimination claim for over £24,000. 

The claim, which was heard by Cambridge Employment Tribunal, had been struck out when it was initially brought in 2015 because the fees for the case were not paid. However, following the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision to abolish tribunal fees, the case was reinstated. 

The woman worked for Lincolns Care Ltd between January 2015 and June 2015. Her job involved providing support to adults with mental health or learning disabilities at their homes. 

In February 2015, the woman worked with a colleague, Juan Jose Guera Landazuri, for the first time. Landazuri, a Spanish national, attempted to kiss the woman. At the time, she dismissed it as a cultural issue and thought nothing more of it.

However, two days later, Landazuri stood directly behind the woman as she worked, described her as a “pretty lady” and tried to kiss her by grabbing her face between his fingers and thumb. He also attempted to put his tongue into her mouth. 

In April 2015, he ran his hands down the woman’s back and touched her bottom. On a separate occasion that same month, he touched her breasts. He also asked questions about her sex life.

The woman complained to Lincolns Care, but it was brushed off as a cultural difference or she was told to push him away. However, when the situation did not improve, a manager said he would make sure the woman and Landazuri no longer worked together. No further action was taken against Landazuri by the employer.

The tribunal judgment noted the woman reported Landazuri’s behaviour to the police and he was investigated. It transpired he was a convicted sex offender and had been deported from the UK once before. Employment judge Foxwell added that it was understood Landazuri had since been deported from the country for a second time. 

As a result of the experience, the woman was signed off sick by her GP in early June 2015. When Landazuri returned to work later that month after being bailed, she decided she could no longer work for Lincolns Care. She found another job a couple of weeks after she left. 

In her tribunal evidence, the woman said the incidents caused her to become “withdrawn” and she was “now fearful of being alone with men”. She added “she felt that she had not been listened to by her employer who simply did not care”.

Lincolns Care issued no response to the claims, neither when the complaints were initially filed in 2015 nor when the case was reinstated. The tribunal took evidence from the woman and her husband and considered a small bundle of documents submitted by the woman to determine the facts. 

The tribunal awarded the woman £24,103.09. This was comprised of £18,000 for injury to feelings, £874.05 for loss of earnings and £5,229.04 in interest. 

Andrew Willis, CIPD HR-inform head of legal, said the case highlighted the risks of choosing “to brush off employee concerns or to explain these away through matters such as cultural differences, misunderstandings or ‘banter’”.

The woman also brought an unfair dismissal claim but this failed because she had not worked for Lincolns Care for at least two years, the required amount of service for an unfair dismissal claim.

Lincolns Care has been contacted for comment.