A former Lidl employee has been awarded more than £50,000 after an employment tribunal found the store she worked at allowed a culture that tolerated inappropriate comments.

Miss Hunter, who was a teenager when she worked at the supermarket chain’s store in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, brought the claim against the company over comments made by its deputy manager, and how the company responded to them.

Deputy manager Mr Harding allegedly told her that she would “look good” in a pair of knickers being sold in the store, and when she said he could not say that to her, he responded by saying “better get used to it”.

Harding also allegedly said he wanted to sleep with Hunter and that she was “distracting” in her uniform. He was alleged to have touched Hunter on the bottom, thigh and waist, and would put his arm around her and attempt to hug her.

The tribunal found that Harding did not intend to cause offence or an intimidating or humiliating environment for the claimant, but his actions had crossed the boundaries of what was acceptable.

Hunter started working as a customer assistant when she was 18, while taking her A-Levels. She claimed that shortly after starting her role, a male colleague moved to the till next to hers and made sexual advances throughout the day. When she asked if she could move to a different till, the store manager refused and said “she should take the comments as a compliment”.

Later, she asked the store manager whether she could be moved to a branch with a female manager. The company did not act on this request, which was made verbally and not via a formal process, but the tribunal said her concerns should have signalled that there were issues with the culture in the store.

Hunter only made one formal written complaint about harassment but had verbally raised concerns on several occasions.

She claimed there was a lack of training for staff at all levels on what was acceptable. She said she did not make any more formal complaints as she was in a predominantly male team and felt she had to put up with the behaviour.

Her line manager thought she personally disliked Harding, so he would try to put her on a different shift. The tribunal said it was surprising the manager did not attempt to investigate the claimant’s dislike of Harding any further.

Hunter also brought claims relating to equal pay, pay discrepancies and underpayments. She would regularly work through her breaks, which were unpaid, and sometimes had to clock out but continue working along with other staff at the store.

She claimed that after she was promoted to shift manager she was paid less than two males carrying out the same role, but it was found that she was placed on the wrong banding in error.

She resigned from her role in July 2021.

The tribunal found that Lidl could be held vicariously liable for the sexual harassment and comments from colleagues she endured. The company did not provide evidence to show it took reasonable steps to prevent harassment and there was no evidence of training staff and managers in this area. It found Lidl did not comply with its own anti-harassment policy, which managers were not familiar with.

The tribunal ordered Lidl to pay compensation for harassment, unfair dismissal and equal pay, and upheld part of her claim for unauthorised deduction of wages. It dismissed her direct sex discrimination claim.

Nevertheless, compensation still totalled £50,885!