'Premier Inn suspended me after sexual harassment complaint'

Martha Hammock Image copyright Martha Hammock
Image caption Martha Hammock was the only female chef working at the hotel branch

A chef has said she was suspended from work at a Premier Inn the day after she complained of sexual harassment.

Martha Hammock, who was the only female chef at her branch of the budget hotel, said her colleague sent her messages with sexual content and innuendo.

She told the Victoria Derbyshire programme that she was suspended the day after complaining to head office.

Premier Inn said: "Any suggestion we suspended Martha in relation to any of her allegations is entirely untrue."

The company added: "We would never suspend anyone for reporting discrimination or harassment."

'Deeply uncomfortable'

Ms Hammock claimed that one of her colleagues sent her a photo of two women, asking her views in a sexual way.

She said he also sent a photo of a penis-shaped bottle asking her opinion about it.

She said: "I found them deeply uncomfortable and offensive."

She said she reported sexual discrimination and harassment to her branch in August. She added that when she felt nothing was being done she was spurred on by media reporting of sexual harassment to escalate it to head office on 1 November.

The following day she said someone was sent to tell her she was being suspended.

She said: "This is destroying me, I feel so upset. It feels like I am dying.

"It is very hurtful that I, the victim, has been suspended, rather than the perpetrator."

In a letter, the reasons given for her suspension were leaving the hotel before a shift had ended, failing to sign keys back in, failing to complete a timesheet correctly and a "breakdown in trust between you and colleagues/the company".

Ms Hammock disputes these.

She said: "I have been a bag of nerves since. I have had to go on medication."

A Premier Inn spokeswoman said: "Upon legal advice we took the decision to suspend Martha on full pay as part of an ongoing investigation into her own conduct at work and an apparent breakdown in the working relationship between her and the company.

"On 1 September we received a formal complaint from Martha relating to allegations of sexual discrimination. We immediately commenced an investigation into this, which is still ongoing.

"The decision to suspend Martha on 2 November is entirely unrelated to the sexual harassment complaint."

The colleague Ms Hammock complained about said that one of the messages had been sent in error, and the other had been a joke.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

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