Sunday 22 July 2018

Married restaurant manager who 'offered accommodation to female staff in return for sex' wins €6.5k for unfair dismissal

The WRC report states that the Store Manager “confirmed to the investigator that he offered accommodation to employees in order to have sex with them.”
The WRC report states that the Store Manager “confirmed to the investigator that he offered accommodation to employees in order to have sex with them.”

Gordon Deegan

A married store manager at a restaurant chain here admitted to an investigator that he offered accommodation to female staff members in order to have sex with them.

The un-named restaurant chain here summarily sacked the man for gross misconduct after concluding that he engaged in sexual harassment.

The man sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the employer to pay the man €6,500 after finding that his dismissal was unfair.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Eugene Hanly found that the man’s conduct amounted to sexual harassment and that the dismissal was substantially fair.

However, Mr Hanly also found that the restaurant chain’s handling of the dismissal from a procedural point of view “was hopelessly flawed” rendering the dismissal unfair.

In the case, the General Manager at the restaurant firm received a complaint on February 10 2017 from a female employee that the Store Manager had threatened to cut her hours of work and had been going to her residence uninvited and causing a scene.

She said that she had been in a relationship with the man but broke it off when she discovered that he was married with a family.

The firm appointed an external Human Resources (HR) professional to investigate the matter and he learned that another employee had left because of alleged sexual harassment by the Store Manager.

This employee also alleged that there were other cases of sexual harassment perpetrated by the Store Manager who worked with the company from May 2014 until his dismissal on February 26 2017.

The General Manager and the HR Practitioner met with the ex-employee and “it was found that the Complainant (Store Manager) took advantage of his position to exhort sexual favours from his staff”.

The WRC report states that the Store Manager “confirmed to the investigator that he offered accommodation to employees in order to have sex with them.”

Outlining the restaurant’s case against the man, the report adds that there were “also incidents of inappropriate conduct and preferable treatment to staff in order to curry favours from female staff”.

It records that the store manager “was accused of unwelcome advances and offers of going to the cinema, restaurants or visits to the park. There were accusations of non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature including leering and making sexually suggestive gestures”.

On the completion of its investigation, the company found that the Store Manager’s acts “constituted not one but a number of very serious incidents”.

The company stated that there is a practice to dismiss persons found to have committed sexual harassment.

The company stated that the man’s actions “caused anxiety and stress to the employees and his conduct placed the health and safety of the staff at risk and also had the potential to cause reputational damage”.

The firm stated that the employee who made the initial complaint against the Store Manager was still suffering from stress a year later.

The company decided that in order to protect their employees it had no option but to implement their zero-tolerance policy and so they summarily dismissed him.

In the case, the man denied sexual harassment.

In his findings, Mr Hanly found that the Store Manager’s conduct and behaviour was unacceptable and a dereliction of his responsibilities and duties in pursuit of his own self-satisfaction.

Mr Hanly stated: “In doing so I find that he placed his staff at risk.”

However, Mr Hanly identified a series of flaws in the dismissal process.

He found that the company failed to advise the man of the seriousness of the situation and the potential outcome of dismissal; failed to offer him the right to defend himself and the right of representation and did not make clear and precise the allegations of sexual harassment against the man.

Mr Hanly also found that the company failed to provide the witness statements to the store manager and  that the company should have given the man the right to confront his accusers and cross examine their statements.

Mr Hanly also found that the company relied upon hear-say evidence and ignored the store manager’s direct evidence.

Deciding that compensation is the most appropriate remedy and awarding the Store Manager €6,500, Mr Hanly stated that the Store Manager’s conduct and behaviour has contributed substantially to the dismissal and this must be reflected in the quantum of the award.

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