A Jersey tribunal awarded hotel employee Annastashia Wango £2,750 in a sexual harassment case, but found her Bantu heritage was not pertinent to the case.
The incident at the Royal Yacht Hotel occurred when another member of staff, Sandro Moniz, held her around her waist and was captured on the hotel’s CCTV cameras.
The tribunal dismissed separate claims of harassment and victimisation.
Wango said that the incident was exacerbated as she was “from the Bantu peoples” for whom being touched on the waist amounted to a serious sexual assault.
However, when announcing the tribunal’s findings, deputy chair Ian Jones said Bantu culture covers 400 distinct ethnic African cultures and that it would be too hard to pigeonhole one connotation of touching a woman’s waist.
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He said: “It seems [ …] unlikely that there is a hard and fast rule about the waists of women. It would seem far more likely that different people, from different countries may have a range of moral and/or ethical rules ranging from being extremely strict to relatively liberal.”
Claire Brook, employment law partner at law firm Aaron and Partners said the incident would be classed as harassment no matter the ethnicity of the victim.
Brook said: “Ultimately, the tribunal held that touching anyone, when they do not want to be touched, is entirely unacceptable.
“It is more unacceptable if it happens in the workplace and in the view of the tribunal aggravated if the person doing the unwanted touching lays their hands on a more junior employee for whom they are responsible.”
Aisling Foley, employment solicitor at law firm SAS Daniels said although this tribunal was conducted in Jersey, UK employment law would be largely the same.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Whilst this case is from Jersey, and therefore not governed by UK law, the position is largely the same in that in a case of sexual harassment, the tribunal will focus on the severity of the conduct, how it made the claimant feel and whether it was unwanted.”
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Foley said employers should ensure they have robust policies in place for dealing with sexual harassment.
She said: “This would be best placed in the employee handbook, so it is easily accessible to all staff. There should be a clear process in place for dealing with concerns and complaints and these should be communicated to staff, so they know how to raise a complaint, who to raise it to and what steps will be taken.
“This should also give staff a level of confidence that the employer takes such issues seriously and is committed to tackling harassment in the workplace.”