Monday 14 October 2019

Female lecturer sexually harassed by male students

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Gordon Deegan

A female college lecturer who was told how male students "would do her" in one of a number of incidents of sexual harassment has been awarded €10,000.

In the case, the Labour Court has ordered Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to pay the €10,000 compensation to Louise Walsh for not doing enough to prevent the sexual harassment of the academic by male agricultural science students.

Chairman of the Labour Court Kevin Foley has ordered WIT to pay Ms Walsh for "the distress and the effects of sexual harassment and harassment based on her gender".

In her case before the Labour Court, Ms Walsh told how she had been sexually harassed by a large group of male students in her class on various dates between October 10, 2014, and March 19, 2015.

In one incident on October 24, 2014, Ms Walsh said that she had been subjected to comments about how the male students "would do her".

On the same day, Ms Walsh said that male students in her class blurted out inappropriate sexual references and sexual language including coarse words referring to parts of a woman's body and references to sexual acts.

The sexual harassment followed WIT assigning Ms Walsh a combined class of 100 students from three courses and around 85 of the students were male.

Ms Walsh records that on October 10, 2014, she notified WIT that she had been sexually harassed by a large group of male students in her assigned class.

She further told the Labour Court that she had been asked explicitly coarse sexual questions and, in addition, various disgusting and explicit comments were made about male genitalia.

Ms Walsh stated that arising from the October 24, 2014, incident, she informed the head of department of this experience and advised her the behaviour had the purpose and effect of violating her dignity and creating an intimidating and hostile working environment.

On November 9, 2014, Ms Walsh advised WIT that the disruption in class continued and WIT subsequently split the class.

Ms Walsh claimed that WIT took no adequate steps to ensure that sexual harassment, harassment and bullying did not take place in her workplace.

She also claimed to the Labour Court that WIT took no adequate steps to respond to her complaints and take adequate steps to reverse the effect of sexual harassment and harassment based on gender and to avoid a recurrence.

Ms Walsh stopped teaching the group of students in March 2015 - the Waterford native who has lectured since 1999 continues to lecture at the college today.

The Institute of Technology contested the claim and told the Labour Court that it took all practicable steps to avoid the occurrence of sexual harassment or harassment based on gender in the case.

However, Labour Court chairman Mr Foley said the court was satisfied that WIT is liable for the sexual harassment and the harassment suffered by Ms Walsh on grounds of her gender.

Mr Foley stated that while WIT did take steps in response to Ms Walsh's complaint, WIT "cannot be found to have taken such steps as were reasonably practicable to avoid a recurrence of sexual harassment and harassment based on gender".

Irish Independent

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