Leslie Easton, 78, was sued by an administrator for sexual harassment after making a string of smutty comments to her in the office and sending ‘extremely distasteful’ messages
Image: Leslie Easton/ Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd)
An elderly businessman has been forced to pay a former female employee £19,000 in damages after making “constant” inappropriate remarks to a younger female employee.
Leslie Easton, 78, made a string of sexual comments about administrator Tina Donlon over a period of up to six years while she worked at his family-run double glazing firm.
He made smutty jokes when she wore shorts to work on a hot day and on a separate occasion when she bent down to pick up a pen.
Easton also sent nearly 150 crude memes and offensive jokes in a WhatsApp group to which he had added her.
A tribunal in South London heard that when a customer commented that Miss Donlon was lucky to be able to wear shorts in the office, Easton quipped that she’d been asked to take all her clothes off.
Later, when the mother picked up a pen from the floor in his office, he is said to have insinuated she perform oral sex on him, saying: “Ooh, while you’re down there, love.”
Leslie Easton/ Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd)
When Miss Donlon complained to Easton’s son Justin, 55, who was also a director at the Kent-based firm, he responded: “that’s my dad, he’s old school.”
The administrator left Leslie Easton and Co in Sidcup in May 2020 after accusing Easton of making “constant sexual remarks” and sending messages with “sexual undertones”.
She has now successfully sued Easton, who has run the firm for 60 years, for sexual harassment.
The tribunal heard that Miss Donlon joined the company in 2014 in a bid to further her accounts training, but within six months Easton began harassing her.
An anonymous letter from a customer was sent to the firm in 2017 detailing the comment Easton made in reference to her shorts.
“I had attended the shop the enquire about window and door replacement throughout my property and was taken to an office where there was a pleasant young lady who was wearing shorts,” it read.
“I commented that it was unusual that shorts were allowed in an office. Her reply was that it was so hot that the management on this occasion allowed the wearing of shorts. I said to her that she must have very good bosses but at this time an older gentleman with grey hair appeared in the office.
”He commented on our conversation and his reply surprised, disgusted and appalled me as he said: ‘I didn’t say she could wear them, I have told her she should just take them off.’
”I walked out of the office in disgust but should have stayed to make sure the young lady was okay.”
Details of the incident were also backed up in a statement from a senior work colleague.
The hearing was also told that following the pen dropping incident in 2019, Miss Donlon felt humiliated, embarrassed and intimidated.
Her boss also added her to a work WhatsApp group called “Friends” through which he sent at least 146 memes and 31 videos between February 2018 and March 2020.
All were said to be “extremely distasteful, crude and shockingly racist” with around a third of the memes being sexual.
Some were said to be “simply bad, misogynistic jokes” but others included pornographic images such as a doctored image of a young naked boy with adult genitals.
The tribunal heard that Easton ignored Miss Donlon’s requests to take her off the group chat when she did not know how to leave it.
In February 2020, she asked her teenage daughter to help remove her from the group.
Easton suffered a stroke in September 2020 and did not give full evidence about his conduct.
In a statement his lawyers said: “Tina was also part of a group chat between Mr Leslie Easton and his family and friends where texts, jokes and messages were shared between them, if some of the shared dialogue offended her she was free to leave the group chat at will.”
But employment Judge Corinna Ferguson said: The conduct complained of continued over a period of more than two years. It did not extend to any physical contact or harassment, but the WhatsApp messages were very persistent and relatively serious in the spectrum of material of a sexual nature.
”Some of the pornographic images were disturbing. We find it extraordinary that a director and owner of a company would send messages of this nature to any employee.”