A care home worker accused of raping a colleague and sexually assaulting two others was awarded £15,000 compensation after he was sacked following a “woefully inadequate” investigation.
The man, who cannot be identified, won his unfair dismissal claim despite three colleagues making allegations against him.
He denied assaulting them at work and at a staff barbecue in East Sussex, and suggested the women had lied because they were “lazy”, the tribunal heard.
But an Employment Judge found he had been unfairly dismissed because no proper investigation was held to look into the women’s claims.
Written complaints were said to have been ‘brief’ and there was no evidence anyone – including potential witnesses – had been interviewed by HR.
The company, which operates numerous other care homes in the south east, was ordered to pay the claimant a basic award of £2,592 and compensation of £12,424. Neither the care home nor its parent company can be named.
Ashford Employment Tribunal in Kent heard the first allegation was made in late June 2015 by a woman referred to in documents as Colleague A.
She said the man approached her from behind and rested his belly on her back at a staff barbecue on June 19.
She claimed he had previously taken photos of and touched her backside.
On June 26, the same day, another woman complained that the man had similarly approached her from behind and touched her breasts as she was helping a wheelchair-bound care home resident.
The second woman, known as Colleague B, also complained he had shown her sex videos on his phone, stroked her thigh, and smacked her bottom.
She said he had touched her breast on more than one occasion, had taken pictures of her and hugged her.
The man was suspended and informed that two separate sexual harassment allegations had been made about him, the tribunal heard.
When he attended a meeting with the care home manager he was only addressed about his behaviour towards one of the women and was not fully informed about the extent of the allegations, it was said.
The man then went on a pre-organised holiday to India on July 12.
He contracted a chest infection while away and it was said his wife rang his employer to say his return flight on had been delayed while he recovered.
While on holiday, a third alleged victim came forward and told care home managers she had been groped by the man when she first started working at the home in 2012.
She added she had witnessed the incident with Colleague A at the staff barbecue.
A letter was sent to the man inviting him to attend a disciplinary hearing. This was re-organised when he did not attend – as he was still in India and had not seen his post.
The second hearing went ahead and it was concluded that sexual harassment had taken place and the claimant should be dismissed.
He was arrested on August 7 following his return to the UK after Colleague B told police he had raped her.
The man was formally charged with rape a year later, but the case was dropped against him after his alleged victim withdrew the complaint.
It was said he appealed his dismissal and at the appeal hearing said the women “might have had cause to fabricate their allegations because they were lazy”, the tribunal heard.
But the company upheld its decision to sack him because they had examined sign-in sheets and concluded it was “possible” he could have been in contact with the complainants.
They also said the man had flouted company rules by not notifying his manager about his sickness which resulted in him not being aware of the disciplinary hearings.
Employment Judge John Pritchard, ruling the man had been unfairly dismissed, said: “There was no credible evidence to suggest that an adequate investigation had been undertaken given the gravity of the allegations.
“There was no credible evidence to suggest that there were discussions, meetings or interviews with any of the three complainants in order to ascertain further details relating to the substance of their allegations.
“There was no investigation as to whether the complainants might have conspired or fabricated their evidence.
“There appears to have been little attempt to gather additional evidence of a corroborative or exculpatory nature such as that which might be provided by others.
“For example, the allegation of sexual assault on 19 June 2015 was said to have taken place during a barbecue when other members of staff were present but they were not interviewed.
“Nor was there any attempt to seek evidence from the resident who was in the wheelchair at the time.
“In the circumstances, the Tribunal finds that the Respondent’s belief in the Claimant’s misconduct was not held on reasonable grounds, the investigation into the allegations being woefully inadequate in the circumstances.”