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Home health worker who joked that colleague in red lipstick ‘looked like prostitute’ wins £10,000

A nursing home worker who quit her job after being suspended for making a joke suggesting that a coworker wearing red lipstick “looked like a prostitute” has won nearly £10,000.

Sally Greatorex, 43, made the ‘badly judged attempt’ at humor while colleague Melanie Marsden was changing and getting ready, a labor court heard.

As part of the same incident, Ms Marsden also accused her of lifting her dress and subsequently filed a formal complaint with the bosses that Ms Greatorex was bullying her.

Ms Greatorex claimed she had said ‘you know what they say about red lipstick’ before explaining that prostitutes wear it, which she meant as a joke and ‘a bit of fun’.

To her ‘shock’, she was then examined for gross misconduct and suspended.

The court heard that she felt she was the victim of a ‘witch hunt’ at the care home where she had worked for 26 years and so resigned.

But Ms Greatorex is now in line to receive £9,899.15 compensation for constructively unfair dismissal after the panel found the complaints against her had not been properly investigated.

Sally Greatorex (pictured), 43, made the ‘poorly judged attempt’ at humor while colleague Melanie Marsden was changing and putting on her makeup, an employment court heard.

Ms Greatorex joined Presentation Sisters Care Centre, a nursing and care home in Matlock, Derbyshire, in 1995, before becoming a housekeeper in 2013.

She was described by colleagues as “extremely reliable” but without a “filter” and as someone who would go “too far” with banter, the remote tribunal heard.

In June 2021, Ms Marsden – a member of her team – was seen sad and crying, while another member of staff noticed she had become “anxious and withdrawn,” the tribunal was told.

Manager Jayne Carnall then approached Ms Marsden, who said she was harassed and bullied by Ms Greatorex and another housekeeper, the panel was told.

In a letter of complaint, Ms Marsden wrote: “I have been verbally abused, insulted and asked very personal questions intended to humiliate, insult and intimidate in a very hostile manner which I find humiliating…

“Sometimes the bullying is incessant and not necessary at all.”

The tribunal was told that Ms Marsden had received “unfriendly and hurtful” comments about her menopausal symptoms and was made to feel uncomfortable by innuendo about her age and appearance.

When interviewed, she described how she had been in the teachers’ lounge when Mrs Greatorex lifted her dress and the prostitute made a comment.

Ms Greatorex (above) will be eligible for compensation of £9,899.15 for constructively unfair dismissal after panel found complaints against her had not been properly investigated

Ms Greatorex (above) will be eligible for compensation of £9,899.15 for constructively unfair dismissal after panel found complaints against her had not been properly investigated

‘When Mrs Marsden changed and put on lipstick’ [Ms Greatorex] would have said she looked like a prostitute,” the court heard.

But when Ms. Greatorex was interviewed, she said she lifted the dress as “a little nice” and said she would have stopped “immediately” had Ms Marsden told her to.

After explaining that she had not called Ms Marsden a prostitute and claiming they had laughed with her without appearing to have gone too far, Ms Greatorex was suspended.

When brought in by Ms. Carnall for a disciplinary meeting, Ms. Greatorex claimed the manager was having a “vendetta” against her.

She claimed Ms. Carnall told her to “get a life” and “lose some weight” as she struggled with her mental health during the pandemic, an accusation her manager vehemently denied.

The meeting was then reconvened to allow the parties to ‘cool down’, but Ms Greatorex then resigned, saying the disciplinary process was ‘flawed’.

Ms Greatorex joined Presentation Sisters Care Center (pictured), a nursing and care home in Matlock, Derbyshire, in 1995, before becoming a housekeeper in 2013.

Ms Greatorex joined Presentation Sisters Care Center (pictured), a nursing and care home in Matlock, Derbyshire, in 1995, before becoming a housekeeper in 2013.

She has now won her case for constructively unfair dismissal after the panel found that Ms Carnall was convinced she had committed gross misconduct before the disciplinary meeting began.

It also ruled that Ms. Carnall should not have been the investigator of the complaint, as well as the disciplinary officer deciding whether or not she was guilty.

However, Ms Greatorex’s damages were reduced by 20 percent after the tribunal ruled that the way she had behaved had contributed to her departure.

Labor Judge Ijeoma Omambala QC said: ‘[Ms Greatorex] had the right to expect and receive a proportionate and fair investigation and trial.

‘The way in which’ [Presentation Sisters Care Centre] prevented this himself.

‘Mainly, [Mrs] Carnall’s admitted determination that she was guilty of gross negligence before she had a chance to plead her case ruled out any possibility of a fair discharge.

†[She] Didn’t call Mrs Marsden a prostitute, although Mrs Marsden did interpret her comment that way…

†[She] made her comment in a thoughtless attempt at humor. Mrs. Marsden did not find her comment funny and was upset and offended by it.’

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