Tuesday 25 July 2017

Women fight dismissal over 'extreme porn'

Edel O'Connell

A CULTURE whereby staff passed around "wholly inappropriate and distasteful" emails was endemic in a division of Bank of Ireland, it has been claimed.

Sarah Murray (25), from Ballybrack, Dublin, and Sarah Rooney (25), from Glasthule, Dublin, were both dismissed from their positions at ICS Building Society after they were found to have circulated emails the financial institution deemed to be in breach of its guidelines.

On the opening day of the hearing last January, counsel for the bank, Tom Mallon, described the material circulated by the pair by email as "extreme and revolting porn".

He said they were guilty of multiple breaches of the company's policies.

Among the messages passed -- both within the firm and to outside companies -- was a series entitled 'Men in Training'. It showed a young boy urinating against a wall and a toddler standing beside a topless woman on the beach.

The women are claiming they were unfairly dismissed from the company -- which is a division of Bank of Ireland -- because they were juniors and female.

They were part of a group of 10 people who were disciplined after management at the bank discovered they had circulated emails.

Yesterday, an appeal against their dismissal resumed at the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Dublin after being adjourned in January of this year.

The issue came to light in January 2009 when management at the building society was carrying out a separate probe after an employee reported she had received a threatening and abusive email.

When management went to look at its email traffic they discovered "wholly inappropriate and distasteful" material was being circulated by staff. Following an investigation, Ms Rooney and Ms Murray were dismissed along with three others.

Disciplined

Five separate employees were disciplined with a final written warning and a week's unpaid leave. All but one of the 10 suspended or dismissed were female, and all were of a junior rank.

The tribunal heard Ms Rooney had a perfect record prior to the investigation and had in fact been named "employee of the quarter" in December 2008, one month before she was dismissed.

However, Kevin D'Arcy, for the two women, claimed the company did not properly investigate who was involved and described the investigation as "fundamentally flawed".

He claimed that from a sample of 10 emails he examined there were at least 43 names of people who had also received the offensive emails but were not investigated. He claimed a number of these individuals were senior members of staff.

Mr D'Arcy claimed there was no basis why the investigative team did not identify a vast number of other persons to whom the emails were sent.

Ms Rooney's inbox was discovered to contain emails sent to her from more senior members of staff, a number of whom were never disciplined.

The bank is denying that anyone was targeted in the investigation as a result of their sex, age or rank and said the practice was not commonplace.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Independent

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