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Pizza Hut workers sacked after reporting sexual harassment

Franchise-holders made allegations 'in retaliation' after one worker reported sexual harassment

Two Pizza Hut workers were dismissed after reporting sexual harassment and racist, misogynistic and transphobic behaviour by managers at two franchises in Neath, Port Talbot.

Kailam Fearn and Sian Murphy were both dismissed from Pizza Hut franchises owned by Salamaan and Javeria Rasul of S&J Enterprises Wales for gross misconduct. 

Murphy was told by store manager Rhys Stephens, that her nipples were "like cut diamonds" when she was in the cold store and told she "shouldn’t bend down like that in front of men" when she picked something up from the floor.

Stephens also used homophobic slurs against a gay colleague.

After reporting the incidents, Murphy was dismissed for gross misconduct due to stealing, poor performance and breaching social media policy.

However, the tribunal heard Murphy had proof she paid for a bottle of water she was accused of taking, and her poor performance amounted to selling an out-of-date salad to a customer.

She was also told that she had breached the social media policy by using her personal phone at work and making disparaging comments on social media.

However, the tribunal heard staff were expected to track pizza orders on their phones  and join its work WhatsApp group, while the disparaging social media comments she was accused of were made in a private WhatsApp chat.

Read more: Lidl worker wins £50,000 in sexual harassment tribunal after boss banter

Fearn was sent a Snapchat photo by area manager Dean Green which showed Green in the bath watching the store's CCTV on his mobile phone.

Green also told Fearn he had "sexy legs" and asked if he wanted a threesome, as well as referring to a transgender staff member as "it" and a foreign-born employee Barry, saying he had no obligation to learn how to say his real name.

Fearn complained to the franchise holder of his branch, Salamaan Rasul. However, he was then suspended and later said he was being dismissed for gross misconduct for stealing food, leaving the store unattended and using his personal mobile phone.

When the case progressed to the tribunal, Rasul also falsely accused Fearn of encouraging a vulnerable person to sell intimate footage of themselves online.

Fearn was suspended from his duties as a special constable [volunteer police officer) during an eight-month police investigation, which cleared him of any wrongdoing. The tribunal heard he was traumatised by the experience.

Tribunal chairman Samantha Moore said Salamaan and Javeria Rasul made the false allegations in "retaliation" for Fearn pursuing them for unfair dismissal.

Both complaints about wrongful dismissal and sexual harassment were successful. Judgement on the compensation Fearn and Murphy should receive has been scheduled for next year.

The ruling follows public scrutiny around another fast food giant, McDonalds, after the BBC reported over 100 staff made allegations about sexual misconduct and a toxic culture.

Nick Hurley, head of the employment group at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, told HR magazine: “Pizza Hut would be advised to improve their training and policies around sexual harassment. They are not the only fast food franchise to face public scrutiny for failing to tackle sexual harassment, which suggests there may be a wider problem in the sector.”

Read more: McDonald's sexual harassment alleged by staff