A nursery secretary accused of sexual harassment and anti-Semitism has denied the allegations, saying he initially thought they were a joke.

An employment tribunal heard Alison Hilton, a former teacher at Treehouse Nursery in Wanstead, claimed Paul Samouelle invited her to watch a pornographic film called 'Jewish Girls Gone Wild' at work this week. 

The alleged incident happened in late September 2014, after Miss Hilton had returned to work after leave to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The teacher, who is Jewish and had worked at the nursery since 2009, also claims Mr Samouelle asked her to come to the nursery’s after school club with him, before miming the action of “bending her over a chair and gyrating his hips”.

Giving evidence at the tribunal today (September 16) Mr Samouelle, who is the husband of the nursery’s owner denied all the claims.

He recalled the moment he first heard about the allegations.

He said: “I received a telephone call from [human resources manager] Nazia Shabbir, who told me to come in to the nursery straight away.

“I was absolutely devastated. I have worked in this predominantly female environment for over 20 years, and this is the first accusation of this type against me.

“I thought it was some kind of joke, I could not believe it.”

Mr Samouelle, has worked as the nursery's secretary since 2000, but said he has no say in running it.

He said he had a “figurehead role” and was also in charge of administration and signing off accounts. He added he was a “man who wears many hats”, including helping with the before- and after-school clubs.

He claimed Ms Hilton was “maybe overly dedicated” to her role, and when asked if she was popular, responded “not at all”.

Rohina Omar, who cross-examined Mr Samouelle, told the hearing: “You saw she keeps to herself, and were interested in her for a long time. You chose your moment carefully.

“You suggested watching a pornographic film”

Mr Samouelle strongly denied these claims.

Ms Omar went on: “Then you suggested she come over and you have sex with her on the weekend of October 26”

Mr Samouelle denied this claim too.

Ms Hilton had said the advances came “three or four weeks” before she was suspended for having a mobile phone in her jacket pocket, contravening the nursery’s safety rules, although she was not wearing the jacket at the time.

Ms Omar accused Mr Samouelle of taking and doctoring a picture of the phone in her pocket in order to get her out the way after becoming concerned about his rebuffed advances.

She said: “When Ms Hilton did not respond, you became extremely concerned and asked staff what they could dig on her so you could get her suspended.

“You were trying to mop up after yourself, make sure there was good evidence against my client, because you were so worried your wife would find out.”

Mr Samouelle claimed he had not even seen the photos before they were placed before him in the tribunal, and denied the claim.

Earlier today, the nursery's human resources manager Nazia Shabbir told the tribunal Alison Hilton had been suspended on October 16 2014 for having her phone in her jacket pocket outside the nursery room during working hours.

But she was allegedly not told of the reasons in writing until October 28, before Ms Shabbir left for a business trip in Finland and Sweden.

Ms Shabbir  denied the trip was a holiday, saying it was to look at a new-style of nursery with Treehouse’s owners.

The tribunal has been adjourned until November 16.