Sacked lecturer, 53, loses lawsuit against college who sacked him

English lecturer, 53, loses lawsuit against college who sacked him for staring at female students’ breasts despite his claim that his eyesight was affected by wrong contacts

  • John Taylor, 53, was accused of ‘staring at the tops and cleavage’ of students 
  • He was sacked from a further education college in North Wales for his conduct
  • A tribunal heard Taylor suffers from type 1 diabetes which affected his eyesight
  • Students as young as 17 complained against Taylor’s conduct in classes  

An English lecturer was sacked for staring at female students’ breasts and bottoms – but claimed his eyesight was affected by wearing the wrong contact lenses that day.

John Taylor, who taught at a further education college in North Wales, was accused by teenage students of entering their ‘personal space’ and ‘staring at their tops and cleavage’, a tribunal heard.

But the 53 year old, who suffers from type 1 diabetes which he says also affects his eyesight, said he had been wearing ‘old contact lenses’ during class and ‘couldn’t stare at anything’ as a result.

After he was fired Taylor sued the college for disability discrimination but an employment tribunal ruled his behaviour was ‘not connected to his disability’ and dismissed the claim.

Other claims of breach of contract, failure to make reasonable adjustments and unfair dismissal succeeded.

The Cardiff tribunal heard Taylor had worked for Grwp Llandrillo Menai, an education college catering mainly for further education students, for 23 years.

The Cardiff tribunal heard John Taylor had worked for Grwp Llandrillo Menai, an education college catering mainly for further education students, for 23 years

The college has several sites in North Wales, including one at Rhyl and another at Rhos-on-Sea.

Mr Taylor was employed as a Media Studies and GCSE English lecturer.

The tribunal heard he was given a written warning in April 2018, after he emphasised the word ‘cock’ when pronouncing a female student’s surname, which was ‘Cockbill’.

The following month Taylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and was hospitalised in the summer due to his condition. He returned to work in September.

During an all-girl English GCSE resit class that month, a group of students as young as 17 complained of Taylor behaving ‘inappropriately’ towards them.

One student said she saw her teacher ‘look at [another student]’s breasts’ and that he ‘looked at [another student]’s bottom’ as she was walking out of class.

The tribunal heard: ‘The students [said] that during the afternoon class [Taylor] had behaved inappropriately towards them by entering their ‘personal space’ and staring at their tops and cleavage.

‘They also said that they had seen [him] looking at their bottoms as they left the room for a break part way through the lesson.

‘The students described how [Taylor] set them work and then went around the class, appearing to look at their work but looking down their tops instead.’

Students also complained about how their teacher was ‘making students fail’, and another complained about his poor ‘appearance and hygiene’.

A disciplinary meeting was held the following month, during which Mr Jones denied staring inappropriately at students.

‘[Taylor] said he is diabetic and it affects his eyesight,’ the tribunal heard.

‘He said that on that day the lenses the optician had given to him were too weak and he had put in some older contact lenses instead which were too strong which resulted in a headache.

‘He said that he couldn’t read due to this and couldn’t stare at anything. He said he was not in a position to stare at anyone with focus, particularly on that day, and was not looking at those people sexually..’

However, a disciplinary panel judged the allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature’ to be true, and Taylor was dismissed in April 2019 for gross misconduct.

He later appealed the decision, which was upheld, and launched four claims against his former employer.

CD-roms belonging to Taylor and found amongst his personal belongings at the college were also found to contain ‘5,000 glamour images’ of two ‘young female celebrities’, some of which ‘showed them posing in underwear or swimwear’.

Concluding, Employment Judge Robert Vernon stated he was unconvinced by Taylor’s excuse that his diabetes meant he was unable to stare at anything.

Judge Vernon said: ‘The Tribunal considered [Taylor’s] evidence to be unimpressive.

‘The Tribunal finds that [Taylor] did behave in a sexually inappropriate manner towards the female students in the class on 27 September 2018 – in particular by staring at the breasts and bottoms of some of them.

‘Having considered all of the evidence, the Tribunal is satisfied that [Taylor’s] behaviour was not connected to his disability.

‘It it is more likely than not that [he] was consciously staring at the students’ bodies and that it was not connected, in any way, to his disability or any issues arising from it.’

Mr Jones’ claims of discrimination on grounds of disability were dismissed – though other claims of breach of contract and failure to make reasonable adjustments due to his disability succeeded.

He had requested adjustments to his working hours as a lack of time between some evening classes meant he didn’t have enough time to ‘eat, test and inject’ which he had to do for his diabetes, resulting in him sometimes being late or finishing lectures early.

Another claim of unfair dismissal also succeeded, due to the the college’s ‘incompetent’ investigation.

However, his culpability in his dismissal means the compensation he is due to be awarded will be reduced by 90 per cent.

A further hearing will be held to decide the exact figure.

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