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Thursday 2 October 2014

Fire service supervisor dismissed after sexual harassment claims

Gordon Deegan

Published 15/08/2014 | 02:30

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The supervisor in the Limerick Fire Service was dismissed. Photo: Getty Images.
The supervisor in the Limerick Fire Service was dismissed. Photo: Getty Images.

A SUPERVISOR in the Limerick fire service was dismissed from his post after an investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment and harassment was made by a female colleague against him.

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Jon Monnickendam lost his job in October 2011 after independent consultants hired by Limerick City Council to investigate 13 separate allegations found adverse findings against the fireman in respect of four.

He appealed the sacking to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) was unsuccessful.

At the tribunal hearing, the unnamed female complainant alleged that the harassment included name calling, sexual innuendo, insinuation that she was a lesbian and knowledge of Mr Monnickendam exposing himself.

He was the woman's supervisor in the fire service emergency control room and the EAT heard initially the woman saw the name calling as 'banter', but it progressed to the stage that she verbally complained about the situation as early as 2008.

The woman had a meeting on October 26, 2010 to elaborate further on the complaints and provide the names of witnesses to the allegations.

At the hearing - held over two days in Limerick in March of this year - a female colleague of the two gave evidence of Mr Monnickendam exposing himself to her on two occasions.

She said that at first she 'laughed it off' but took offence the second time and asked his partner, who also worked for the council, to ensure it didn't happen again. An emergency control operator, who had Mr Monnickendam as his supervisor, stated that he did witness Mr Monnickendam calling the complainant names and saw that it upset her.

He said that this type of 'banter' was not the norm even though there is "an offensive sense of humour and a level of sexual banter" within the council. He confirmed that he along with Mr Monnickendam and the complainant did visit a sex shop together on their lunch-break and this occurred in the year prior to the complaint by the woman being made.

At the hearing, Mr Monnickendam gave evidence and didn't accept that he was bullying, harassing or sexually harassing the complainant. He accepted that he exposed himself at a work night-out while under the influence.

Mr Monnickendam said there was a culture of sexual banter in the council.

He alleged that he was also called names by the complainant, his manager and other staff.

He said that this was normal and in hindsight accepted that all the council staff were engaged in inappropriate behaviour.

However, in its determination, the EAT recorded that the council had engaged independent consultants, and noted that Mr Monnickendam was offered and declined the right to appeal the City's Manager's decision to dismiss him.

Limerick Council yesterday declined to comment while the SIPTU official handling the case on Mr Monnickendam's behalf also declined to comment.

Irish Independent

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