Country hotel boss sexually harassed his male head chef by continually singing Victoria Wood’s Ballad of Barry and Freda to him, tribunal rules
- Andrew Wilson, manager of Windermere Manor hotel, serenaded Sam Nunns
- Mr Nunns said his boss ‘attempted eye contact’ and repeatedly touched him
It has to be the first documented case of workplace harassment by means of a classic Victoria Wood sketch.
The boss of a posh country hotel sexually harassed his head chef by singing the much-loved comedian’s song ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’ to him in a suggestive way, an employment tribunal ruled.
First aired on her show in 1986, the composition – a parody of Cole Porter’s ‘Let’s Do It’ – tells of a woman propositioning her prudish husband for sex.
The hilarious lyrics feature Freda begging the reluctant Barry to ‘Bend me over backwards on my hostess trolley’ – only for him to beg her ‘Let me read this catalogue on vinyl flooring’.
Andrew Wilson, manager of Windermere Manor Hotel in the Lake District, serenaded head chef Sam Nunns with the song while making a series of ‘disconcerting gestures’ as he emphasised the lyric ‘Let’s do it’, the hearing was told.
Andrew Wilson (pictured), manager of Windermere Manor Hotel in the Lake District, serenaded head chef Sam Nunns with The Ballad of Barry and Freda
Mr Nunns complained that his boss at the 19th century country retreat ‘attempted eye contact’ while gesticulating and singing the lyrics – which include ‘I could handle half the tenors in a male voice choir’.
The chef also told the tribunal Mr Wilson repeatedly touched his thigh and bottom and lingered while hugging him as he worked at the £170-a-night hotel, set within ‘beautiful grounds’.
He said that on other occasions the general manager referred to a cucumber and asked him ‘do you need some time alone dear’, adding: ‘I’ll put olive oil on the orders list again’.
Around the same time, he ‘faked an orgasm’ when eating the chef’s food, and then hugged and ‘mildly dramatised dry-humping’ him, it was told.
Following a ‘string’ of assaults at the 1850s hotel – described as a ‘handsome building’ and boasting a view of Lake Windermere – Mr Nunns decided to resign and sue.
Although the tribunal ruled that several of these incidents did not constitute harassment, an employment judge said the song had ‘violated his dignity’ and was humiliating.
As a result, it amounted to unwanted sexual conduct, along with ‘repeated’ touching, massaging his shoulders, and saying he loved him.
A further hearing will take place at a later date to determine how much compensation Mr Nunns should receive.
Mr Nunns complained that his boss at the 19th century country retreat (pictured) ‘attempted eye contact’ while gesticulating and singing the lyrics
The tribunal, held in Manchester, heard the ‘Ballad of Barry and Freda’ incident happened in January last year.
Mr Nunns said the manager ‘repeatedly attempted to make eye contact’ and ‘made disconcerting gestures’ towards him, ‘particularly when singing the repeated words ‘Let’s do it’.
Mr Wilson admitted he sang the song, but said this was only because Wood had come up in conversation and Mr Nunns hadn’t heard it.
The chef told the tribunal that the week he began working there, the general manager said ‘oh dear, I didn’t realise you were…’ and made ‘a series of gestures’ after he found out Mr Nunns had an ex-boyfriend.
However, the tribunal found that while this happened, it wasn’t harassment, along with asking if he wanted time alone with a cucumber, and dry humping him.
Ruling that Mr Nunns had been sexually harassed, Employment Judge Phil Allen said: ‘Someone singing a song in a work environment would not normally amount to unlawful harassment.’
But he highlighted how Mr Wilson placed ‘particular emphasis’ on the repeated words ‘Let’s do it’, accompanied by ‘eye contact and disconcerting gestures’.
These actions ‘took on a very different tone’ in light of his wider behaviour towards the chef, he said.
It has to be the first documented case of workplace harassment by means of a classic Victoria Wood (pictured) sketch
Therefore the impromptu performance ‘had the effect of violating the claimant’s dignity and creating a degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for him’, he ruled.
Having soared to fame in the 1980s, winning a BAFTA and being made a CBE, Dinnerladies star Wood tragically died of cancer in 2016 aged just 62.
One of her best-loved skits, The Ballad of Barry and Freda has been viewed more than 1million times on YouTube.
Paying tribute to ‘one of her idols’, actress Sheridan Smith said the song’s lyrics had her ‘crying with laughter’.
Mr Wilson and the hotel were approached for comment.
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