An office secretary has won more than £86,000 after a group of ‘unruly’ double glazing salesmen taunted her with sexual jokes, openly mocked her and taped her fingers together.
Christine McCrorie, 59, was subjected to a ‘serious and prolonged campaign of harassment’ by her ‘boisterous’ colleagues who mercilessly bullied her about her age.
The men – all aged in their 20s and 30s – teased her relentlessly about using walking sticks and having a bus pass before she became so stressed she was forced to take sick leave.
On one occasion they also tried to shock her by asking if she had seen a naked corpse with an erection on Silent Witness.
Now she has won substantial compensation after successfully suing her employers for unfair dismissal, victimisation and harassment.
Salesman Andrew Smerdon (pictured left) and Elliot Martin, a sales manager and Ms McCrorie’s line manager, (pictured right) were part of a ‘serious and prolonged campaign of harassment against the 59-year-old company secretary while she worked at Aspect Windows
An employment tribunal heard that Ms McCrorie had worked as a personal assistant for the sales director at Aspect Windows, in Exeter, Devon since 2016.
‘Serious and prolonged harassment’ suffered by Aspect Windows’ PA
Christine McCrorie, 59, was subjected to a ‘serious and prolonged campaign of harassment’ by her ‘boisterous’ colleagues, a tribunal was told.
Among the incidents raised to the employment judge, the tribunal heard her colleagues:
- Teased her about her age. The tribunal heard one staff member told her TVs hadn’t been invented when she was born, and ‘goaded’ her about walking sticks, retirement, pensions, incontinence pads, stair lifts, bus passes and meals on wheels.
- Same individual taped her fingers together as she sought help closing a parcel, while another colleague watched.
- Made inappropriate sexual remarks, including that it was ‘Steak and Blow job day’.
- Discussed a naked corpse on BBC TV show Silent Witness, and discussed how the body had an ‘erection’ in a bid to shock Ms McCrorie.
- Her job was ‘clearly’ being advertised online while she was still at the company, but this was denied when she raised it.
- She alleged there was too much swearing and sex talk about customers, in the office also taking about football, playing music and generally wasting time.
The hearing was told that there was a considerable age gap between her and the rest of the sales team and following the departure of the director, who had ruled the office with ‘a rod of iron’ but was not replaced, the group became ‘more boisterous and unruly’.
The tribunal found that the group resented Ms McCrorie’s ‘chivvying’ and took advantage of the fact she was no longer the boss’s ‘right hand woman’.
Ms McCrorie, a former town councillor, said there was too much swearing, ‘sex talk’ about customers, football, and music coming from the sales team.
The group’s behaviour got progressively worse, the tribunal heard, and they joked about a corpse on the BBC show Silent Witness having an ‘erection’ to try and shock Ms McCrorie who said she had to leave the room because she felt physically sick.
Elliot Martin, a sales manager and her line manager, had asked Ms McCrorie if she had seen the naked body on the BBC programme the previous night before making the explicit joke.
Giving evidence at the tribunal Mr Martin claimed he had just been having a discussion about the TV watershed and how it had changed over the years.
The Exeter tribunal found that would be an ‘unusual’ choice of conversation first thing in the morning.
Another salesman, Andrew Smerdon, embarked on a ‘sustained’ campaign of harassment taunting Ms McCrorie about her age.
The tribunal heard that he told her TVs hadn’t been invented when she was born and ‘goaded’ her about walking sticks, retirement, pensions, incontinence pads, stair lifts, bus passes and meals on wheels.
In another incident Ms McCrorie had been trying to tape up a broken cardboard box and asked Mr Smerdon to help her.
The tribunal heard that as she held out the box he taped her fingers together and made another man film the incident on his phone.
Martin asked Ms McCrorie if she had seen the naked body on BBC programme Silent Witness the previous night and joked about the corpse having an ‘erection’ which the tribunal heard was to try and shock her
Smerdon embarked on a ‘sustained’ campaign of harassment taunting Ms McCrorie about her age. The tribunal heard that he told her TVs hadn’t been invented when she was born and ‘goaded’ her about walking sticks, retirement, pensions, incontinence pads, stair lifts, bus passes and meals on wheels
Both Smerdon and Martin no longer work for Aspect Windows, according to their LinkedIn professional profiles, although it is not known if the tribunal had any connection with their departure.
Mr Smerdon now works as a project coordinator at a building materials company called NorDan UK Ltd, while Martin’s LinkedIn lists him as a co-founder at Estuary View Installations, a timber and aluminium window and doors business.
Another, Steve Wesley, came into work one morning and boasted that it was ‘Steak and Blow job day’ in front of a shocked Ms McCrorie who made notes of all the offensive comments.
Eventually, a meeting was held to clear the air but the tribunal heard it ‘did not go well’ and Ms McCrorie was accused of calling Mr Smerdon ‘stupid’.
Shortly after, Ms McCrorie went off work sick with stress and began putting together a formal grievance.
At the grievance meeting she confronted her boss with the allegation that her job was ‘clearly’ being advertised online but he denied that and said it was for another position.
An employment judge ordered Aspect Windows, in Exeter, Devon to pay Ms McCrorie, who worked there from 2016 to 2019, a total of £86,496 in compensation
Later that day she was warned she was at risk of redundancy and was eventually dismissed in June 2019.
Employment Judge Eoin Fowell concluded: ‘The language and behaviour which she endured amounts in our view to a serious and prolonged campaign of harassment.
‘Initially it may not have been targeted at her, but in her last few months at work it clearly was, and had an understandably distressing effect on her, as it would on anyone in the workplace.
‘This was compounded by the steps to remove her, the grievance process – when clearly no real consideration was given to the possibility that this might all be true – and which the company did not even conclude before her dismissal – and then the resulting and contrived redundancy process.’
Judge Fowell found her claims of unfair dismissal, victimisation and harassment were all proved.
He ordered the company, which makes and sells double glazing, to pay her a total of £86,496 in compensation.
Aspect Windows have been contacted by Mail Online for comment.