Boss of UK firm Tim Watts sued by assistant Debbie Smith for sexual derogatoration

Updated: 29 Sep 2010
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Sexual harassment claim: Debbie Smith says she was forced to leave her job at recruitment firm Pertemps Group after being victimised by chairman Tim Watts.


The Pertemps Recruitment firm subsidiary in Birmingham where Mrs Smith worked for a year.


A businesswoman earning £90,000 a year was forced out of her job after her boss called her a ‘sexy nurse’ and told her to call him when she had a shower, a tribunal heard.
Debbie Smith, 49, said Tim Watts subjected her to a stream of ‘degrading and offensive’ comments and referred to the size of a colleague’s breasts on her first day.
The mother of three, who was the managing director of a newly created subsidiary of Pertemps, a recruitment firm, is suing for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and victimisation.
She alleges that Mr Watts, the61-year-old chairman of the firm, whose personal fortune is thought to exceed £35million, singled her out because she was female.
Mrs Smith, from Sutton Coldfield, told a Birmingham employment tribunal that the comments started on her first day in September 2008.
‘I said that I had known a fellow Pertemps employee at school,’ she said. ‘He (Mr Watts) said to me: “Were her breasts as big as that at school?”
‘I was shocked and taken aback. I didn’t say anything as I didn’t want to be seen to be making trouble on my first day.’
Mrs Smith, who is claiming for loss of earnings, loss of pension contributions and injured feelings, said she was forced out of her job after filing a grievance against Mr Watts.
The married businesswoman, who left the company after a year, said she did not report to Mr Watts and met him only a few times, but he constantly made ‘degrading comments’.
‘It seemed that on every occasion (that we met) he took the opportunity to comment inappropriately.
‘He once asked me to phone him before going for a shower, which I thought was wholly inappropriate. Mr Watts told me I looked like a sexy nurse. These were sexual comments that were degrading, humiliating and offensive.
‘Those comments would not have been made if I was male.’
Mr Watts is a well-known figure in Birmingham. In 2008, the flamboyant businessman, who drives a £300,000 Rolls Royce Phantom, sued a fellow businessman who called him a ‘d***head’ and was awarded substantial damages.
Mrs Smith said she had initially found Mr Watts to be ‘shrewd, generous, inspirational and eccentric’.
But she quickly changed her mind, alleging he singled her out and treated her in an inappropriate way.
Mrs Smith was appointed managing director of Network Brand Partnership in September 2008.
The tribunal continues.
SOURCE: Daily Mail
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