A SALES manager put a female colleague across his knee and spanked her and encouraged women to grab his genitals, an employment tribunal heard.
Angelina Ashby, aged 41, told a Sheffield hearing she was extremely uncomfortable working in an office run with a ‘boys’ club atmosphere’.
She said colleagues at Chesterfield-based marine supply firm Cathelco excluded her from office conversations, denied her professional support and teased her about her weight.
The sales executive, who resigned in October 2008, said her boss Pete Smith never made sexual advances towards her but she was embarrassed by his behaviour towards other women in the office.
Miss Ashby, of Devizes Close, Chesterfield, said: “There is something of a boys’ club atmosphere within Cathelco, where females are deemed as being over-emotional and sensitive if they have a complaint and who have to clearly work twice as hard as the male members of staff.”
The tribunal started last November but was adjourned and restarted yesterday with a new panel after a tribunal member realised he knew a witness.
Miss Ashby is claiming constructive dismissal, sexual discrimination and pay discrimination against the firm, which supplies products to the marine industry.
The firm denies all allegations.
Miss Ashby, who started working for the firm in June 2003, said problems began in September 2006 when Mr Smith, of Shirland Street, Chesterfield, became her line manager.
She said: “Pete Smith would often make me feel uncomfortable and on one occasion took his time to view sex toys, such as blow-up dolls, on the internet.
“He was more than aware I could see his screen as I sat directly behind him and, moreover, seemed to take his time viewing the website.
“I felt he did this to embarrass and make me feel uncomfortable.”
She added: “Pete Smith also used to sit female staff on his knee and stroke their hair and would stand behind their chairs to do the same. Again I found it very disconcerting and uncomfortable.
“There were also regular incidents where staff who he was on friendly terms with in the export department would be successfully encouraged to grab his genitals.
“On one occasion a sales administrator was chased around the office by Pete Smith, who put her over his knee and spanked her.”
Under cross-examination from Cathelco’s lawyer Barry Warne, Miss Ashby admitted she sent an email to Mr Smith on Valentine’s Day in 2006 in which she said: “You have always been too shy to ask me out. Unless, that is, I am not worth sexually harassing!”
Mr Warne said: “I put it to you that you were inviting Peter Smith to ask you out. You wanted to be the lady he was seeing, is that right?”
Miss Ashby replied: “It wasn’t like that between us.”
Mr Warne said she was ‘unpopular’ at Cathelco because she failed to correctly complete clerical tasks, was unhelpful to colleagues, bad at listening, stubborn, a bad team player and interfering.
Company statements presented to the tribunal said in 2007 Miss Ashby, who is claiming pay discrimination, refused a pay rise from £13,461 to £15,000 and a separate £1,000 bonus, because it would affect her entitlement to benefits.
She instead requested to be paid with a new washing machine and dishwasher, which was refused.
The following year she was offered a pay rise to £18,000, which she refused, because it was linked to her grievance for equal pay.
The hearing, which is expected to last eight days, continues.