A golf professional at a country club has won an unfair dismissal case after he was wrongly accused of telling a junior female colleague “you smell so good I could lick you all over”.
Mark Sturgess was sacked from his job at Cambridge Country Club in June 2022 after he was alleged to have made “unwanted advances of a sexual nature” to front-of-house colleague Amanda Clark.
During a disciplinary hearing the PGA-accredited golf professional also faced allegations that he messaged Ms Clark inappropriately late at night and joked that a colleague looked like Jimmy Savile.
However, a tribunal has ruled he was fired unfairly after finding he did not make the ‘lick you’ comment or the Savile remark.
Mr Sturgess, who has been a golf professional for 28 years, is in line to receive compensation from Cambridge Country Club after suing them for unfair and wrongful dismissal.
Compensation will be reduced by 40 per cent because he did act inappropriately by messaging Ms Clark late at night asking her ‘how do you manage to look so good everyday?’, the judge at Watford Employment Tribunal said.
Ms Clark, who is married, complained in April 2022 that Mr Sturgess had told her in front of colleagues in the club shop: “You smell so good I could lick you all over.”
She also claimed he was ‘rude and unhelpful’ at work and that he had sent her a text at 10.58pm asking: “I have a question. How do you manage to look so good everyday?”
He was also alleged to have compared a co-worker at the club to Savile during a conversation with others at the bar.
Mr Sturgess, who joined the club in May 2010, denied making the ‘lick you’ comment and the Savile comparison, and said there was ‘nothing’ in the messages he sent to Ms Clark.
A report said: “He went on to say that he felt the complaint from Ms Clark was due to a clash of personalities ‘business wise’ and to a breakdown in their working relationship after Ms Clark was promoted, in relation to her trying to take charge in the shop and with the golf societies.”
Employment Judge Kerrie Hunt has since said there were a number of ‘inconsistencies and contradictions’ in Mr Macdonald’s investigation.
Mr Macdonald did not interview further witnesses about the Savile incident or the ‘lick you’ comment, nor question Ms Clark further.
“I am not persuaded on the basis of the evidence from the investigation and before me in the tribunal and do not find that Mr Sturgess made the comment alleged in the pro golf shop to Ms Clark”, Judge Hunt said.
“I am also not persuaded on the evidence heard and do not find that he made a comment referring to [the other staff member] as resembling Jimmy Savile.”
The judge added: “I conclude that the club did not carry out a reasonable and sufficient investigation.
“The allegations were categorised as gross misconduct with serious consequences for Mr Sturgess.
“There were some basic yet fundamental details of the allegations against Mr Sturgess that [Mr Macdonald] did not make enquiries about or further investigate the details, including the time and date and potential witnesses of the ‘lick you’ comment.”
The judge ruled that Mr Sturgess did message Ms Clark which was inappropriate, but said a final written warning would have been a more appropriate response.
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