Muslim waitress wins nearly £3,000 for hurt feelings over skimpy dress

A Muslim cocktail waitress who quit after refusing to wear a bright red dress for work has won almost £3,000 in compensation for sexual harassment.

Fata Lemes, 33, was handed the payout even though a tribunal panel rejected her claim that the dress was “sexually revealing and indecent”.

It concluded that the Bosnian Muslim “holds views about modesty and decency which some might think unusual in Britain in the 21st century”.

But it accepted that Miss Lemes genuinely believed that the short, low-cut dress was “disgusting” and made her look “like a prostitute”.

Bosses at the Rocket bar and restaurant in London’s Mayfair should have made allowance for her feelings and their insistence that she wear the dress amounted to sexual harassment, it ruled.

The panel at Central London Employment Tribunal found that Miss Lemes “overstated” her trauma at being asked to wear the sleeveless dress that was open at the back.

It rejected Miss Lemes’ claim that she was left with no choice but to walk out of her job after just eight days.

It branded her compensation claim of £20,000 including £17,500 for hurt feelings – as “manifestly absurd”.

But it awarded her £2,919.95 for hurt feelings and loss of earnings.

Miss Lemes told the tribunal that she “might as well be naked” in the dress, adding: “I was brought up a Muslim and am not used to wearing sexually attractive clothes.”

A photo of Miss Lemes on Facebook, however, showed her wearing a low cut T-shirt revealing her cleavage.

In its judgment, the panel ruled that restaurant group Spring & Greene, which owns the Rocket chain, must “take their victim as they find her”.

It said of the dress: “It is eye-catching, not only because of its colour but also because of its cut and lines.

“It is clearly a garment for a girl or young woman. It is intended to, and does, show the curves of the body.

“It seeks to make the wearer attractive. It might be seen as a party dress or something to wear at an informal celebration.”

But the panel ruled that wearing the dress could not amount to “conduct of a sexual nature”.

Miss Lemes told how she was pestered for sex by customers at the bar shortly after starting work in May last year.

The tribunal ruled: “In our judgment, the effect of requiring her to wear the dress was to violate her dignity. We further consider that it created for her an environment which was degrading, humiliating and offensive.”

It pointed out that a summer uniform of “brightly coloured, figure-hugging garb” had not been introduced for male waiting staff.

But the tribunal rejected Miss Lemes’ claim of constructive dismissal.

The company’s lawyer Tom Grady told the tribunal: “There is no evidence to support the suggestion that it is a sex club or some sort of seedy brothel.”

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