A female principal sexually harassed a male worker after he said he looked ‘fit’ in Speedos

Shelagh O’Shea signed off emails to teaching assistant Nikoloz Papashvili with a kiss and said she wanted him to meet the parents

A female head teacher sexually harassed a male teaching assistant after he said he looked “fit” in Speedos, a tribunal heard.

Inappropriate comments made by senior women to younger men have “no place in the modern workplace”, an employment judge ruled after hearing the case of school worker Nikoloz Papashvili.

Mr Papashvili was the subject of “banter” in the staffroom when colleagues laughed at the sexual advances made by headteacher Shelagh O’Shea, an employment tribunal heard.

Mrs Shea signed emails to the teaching assistant with a kiss and said she wanted him to meet the parents.

Mr Papashvili took Belvue School, in Ealing, west London, to an employment tribunal after he was made redundant for “skiving” work to go on a summer holiday to Croatia.

The tribunal ruled in his favor on claims of sexual harassment and unfair dismissal, saying the investigation that led to his dismissal was “grossly unfair”.

Seven times of sexual harassment

Mr Papashvili has won £9,309 and the tribunal has revoked an anonymity order which previously prevented Mrs Shea and Belvue School from being identified.

The hearing in Watford was told that Mrs O’Shea sexually harassed Mr Papashvili seven times over two years, from 2017 to 2019.

“The consistent theme in these allegations was Mr O’Shea referring to an appropriately appointed body (Mr Papashvili) and his Speedos”, the tribunal judgment said.

Mr Papashvili claimed he was being “used and abused” by the principal who made “unsolicited sexual advances” and, in June 2020, told him she wanted to give him to “meet the parents”.

The tribunal heard from the school’s caretaker, who said he and other members of staff “relied” on Mr Papashvili about the principal’s “remarks and innuendos”.

Allegations of gross misconduct

It was heard that Belvue School was closed in March 2020 for most students but a rota was drawn up for staff to continue to come in.

Staff were told they had to attend the secondary school during the last week of term, regardless of what the rota said – despite Mr Papashvili being scheduled to be out of office.

As a result, he asked to take his vacation early so he could visit his parents in Georgia for his birthday – a request that was denied.

The tribunal heard that the headteacher then discovered that Mr Papashvili had gone to the pub to “leave some drinks” before “going on a European trip” with his girlfriend the following day.

Mrs. Shea asked him to see him; however, Mr Papashvili called in sick, claiming to have Covid symptoms.

The principal said it was “unacceptable” and launched disciplinary proceedings; however, the tribunal found that it was not clear what was being investigated.

The tribunal found that the school had already “made up its mind” and called his behavior “unacceptable”.

Mr Papashvili was signed off sick and faced allegations of gross misconduct over his absence in the summer and loss of trust and confidence.

The hearing in Watford was told that Mr Papashvili did not raise concerns about sexual harassment until late 2020, when he was facing disciplinary proceedings.

From the “hostile and intermediate” email, the tribunal found that it was “clear that Mr Papashvili was not going to get a fair decision on his complaint”.

He was posted in December 2020.

Employment Judge Gary Tobin said “the principal who led the investigation found the facts she wanted”.

Opinions had no place in a modern workplace

At the latest compensation hearing, Judge Tobin said Speedo’s comments were unacceptable.

Judge Tobin said: “We believe that Mrs Shea thought she was paying her (Mr Papashvili) a compliment and/or that her comments were mocking or disturbing.

“We accepted it [a colleague’s] previous evidence that he and some other members of staff made fun of (Mr Papashvili) the comments and innuendos of the principal.

“Language and attitudes towards colleagues change over time and views that may have been common and acceptable in the workplace 30 or 40 years ago can no longer be defended or accepted.

“Similar comments made by a senior man, especially if they are older, are generally viewed as unacceptable if directed at a junior or younger woman and perhaps, in recent times, such comments should be viewed as a female principal now does the same to a younger teaching assistant. unacceptable.

“Such comments are not joking or arising when the recipient objected and (Mr Papashvili) objected – albeit sometime after the event.

“We don’t think the comments were made directly to (Mr Papashvili); they were made about him in a juvenile way that has no place in the modern workplace.

“The harassment was young telling from an older woman in a professional environment and this reflected badly on her.”

Mr Papashvili’s compensation award of £9,309 was significantly reduced because of his conduct.

The tribunal found that Mr Papashvili was dishonest and told multiple lies, including wanting to go to Georgia and having Covid.

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