CSA manager claims woman was sex pest: Colleague bought executive skimpy briefs, harassed him on phone and buried her face in his neck every day, tribunal told

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A FEMALE official at the Child Support Agency sexually harassed her manager for eight months, repeatedly asking him to sleep with her and buying him skimpy briefs for his birthday, an industrial tribunal was told yesterday.

The woman twice invited Stephen Davies to hotel rooms, pestered him with telephone calls to his home and told him he was 'the best thing since sliced bread'. But when he spurned her advances, she lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against him.

Mr Davies, 39, told the tribunal in Birmingham that the allegations led to colleagues describing him as a rapist and pervert. Yet his letter of dismissal from Ros Hepplewhite, the CSA's chief executive, sent last March, said the charge of sexual harassment had not been proven.

'(The woman) has destroyed me because I would not comply with what she wanted,' Mr Davies said. 'She put me on a pedestal. She thought . . . that I was the most attractive manager in the office; that I was the best-dressed manager in the office; that I had the best bum in the office.

'And when I would not comply, she made the malicious complaint. The most disgusting thing is that the CSA believed her on the balance of probability.'

Mr Davies, 39, was the operations project manager at the Brierley Hill CSA office near Dudley in the West Midlands. His representative, Peter Henrick, told the hearing that Mr Davies had been a civil servant for 21 years and worked at more than 100 offices without complaint.

But he was suspended on 21 June 1993, after the 35-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accused him of sexually harassing her at a Christmas party in 1992.

Although he was cleared of the allegations, Mr Davies was dismissed on two charges of management harassment and one of financial impropriety, understood to have involved an irregularity in the completion of an expenses form.

He is claiming he has been the victim of sexual discrimination by the CSA because he was harassed by the woman, an executive officer, and it failed to stop her. Mr Henrick said it was vicariously liable because it had no cohesive equal opportunities policy.

Mr Davies told the hearing that the woman's campaign of sexual harassment began in October 1992. He said every day she would bury her face in the nape of his neck to smell his aftershave. She would compliment him on his appearance, fix his tie, brush away imaginary specks of dust from clothes and make smutty and suggestive comments.

That month, the two attended a conference in Manchester and shared the same hotel. The woman's husband, who also works for the CSA, was there too, but had been booked into his own room. When Mr Davies asked why, he said the woman replied that she was glad to get away from her husband.

'She said 'You never know what might happen. You know I fancy you'. I told her I was not interested,' he said.

In February 1993, the two were in Newcastle on business, but Mr Davies told the woman his hotel was full.

'I did not want to be in the same hotel as her,' he said. On arrival, he dropped her off and took her suitcase up to her room but declined an invitation to have coffee.

'When I picked her up the following day, she said: 'I thought you would come round last night. You know I was on my own.' I laughed, and I am 99.9 per cent sure that her next words were: 'If we can just make love once, Steve, I'm sure you'll want more. I can be very discreet. No one will know'.'

The hearing continues today.

(Photograph omitted)