A golf professional at a country club has won an unfair dismissal case after he was wrongly accused of telling a junior female colleague “you smell so good I could lick you all over”.
Mark Sturgess was sacked from his job at Cambridge Country Club in June 2022 after he was alleged to have made “unwanted advances of a sexual nature” to front-of-house colleague Amanda Clark.
During a disciplinary hearing, the PGA-accredited golf professional also faced allegations that he messaged Ms Clark inappropriately late at night and joked that a colleague looked like Jimmy Savile.
However, a tribunal has ruled he was fired unfairly after finding he did not make the “lick you” comment or the Savile remark.
Mr Sturgess, who has been a golf professional for 28 years, is in line to receive compensation from Cambridge Country Club after suing them for unfair and wrongful dismissal.
Following a complaint from Ms Clark, David Macdonald, the club’s general manager, had headed up a disciplinary hearing and sacked Mr Sturgess in June 2022.
Mr Sturgess was found to have made “unwanted advances of a sexual nature to fellow employees” in relation to the “lick you” comment, made “unwanted statements” in relation to the Savile comment, and to have inappropriately messaged Ms Clark.
However, Employment Judge Kerrie Hunt, sitting in Watford, said there was a number of “inconsistencies and contradictions” in Mr Macdonald’s investigation.
Witnesses not interviewed
Mr Macdonald did not bother to interview further witnesses for the Savile incident or the “lick you” comment, nor question Ms Clark further.
However, Mr Sturgess’s compensation will be reduced by 40 per cent because he did act inappropriately by messaging Ms Clark late at night asking her “how do you manage to look so good everyday?”, the judge said.
Mr Sturgess, who joined the club in May 2010, denied making the “lick you” comment and the Savile comparison, and said there was “nothing” in the messages he sent to Ms Clark.
A report said: “He went on to say that he felt the complaint from Ms Clark was due to a clash of personalities ‘business wise’ and to a breakdown in their working relationship after Ms Clark was promoted, in relation to her trying to take charge in the shop and with the golf societies.”
The judge said: “I conclude that the club did not carry out a reasonable and sufficient investigation.
“The allegations were categorised as gross misconduct with serious consequences for Mr Sturgess.
“There were some basic yet fundamental details of the allegations against Mr Sturgess that [Mr Macdonald] did not make enquiries about or further investigate the details, including the time and date and potential witnesses of the ‘lick you’ comment.”
The judge ruled that Mr Sturgess did message Ms Clark which was inappropriate, but said a final written warning would have been a more appropriate response.