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Boss urged staff 'grab my genitals'

A SALES manager put a female colleague across his knee and spanked her, encouraged women to grab his genitals and viewed sex toys and blow-up dolls on the internet at work, an employment tribunal heard.

Pete Smith, sales manager at Chesterfield-based marine supplies firm Cathelco, and some of his colleagues are accused of bullying and harassing former sales executive Angelina Ashby.

Miss Ashby, aged 40, of Devizes Close, Chesterfield, told the Sheffield tribunal she was ostracised by staff for two years, who teased her, talked about her in a derogatory way, sent emails about her, excluded her from office banter and drew insulting cartoons about her weight which resulted in her taking anti-depressants.

She is claiming constructive dismissal, sexual discrimination and pay discrimination against the firm, which supplies products to the marine industry to prevent metal corrosion and barnacles and algae sticking to sea vessels. The firm denies all allegations.

Miss Ashby, who started working for the firm in June 2003 as a sales executive for the Corrintec Division, said problems began in September 2006 when sales manager Mr Smith became her line manager.

She said: "I was subjected to a continuous course of mistreatment."

Miss Ashby added: "A few days after my formal grievance was submitted, Laura Holland, a sales administrator was chased around the office by Pete Smith who then proceeded to put her over his knee and spank her.

Her grievance was investigated by bosses but she resigned in October 2008.

Miss Ashby said: "Peter 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 seemed to take his time viewing the website."

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. I found it disconcerting and uncomfortable."

Miss Ashby claimed Mr Smith also "successfully encouraged" female staff "to grab his genitals".

The tribunal was halted because one of tribunal panel knew a witness. It will start again before a new panel next year.

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