Sunday 18 August 2019

Retailer pays €15,000 to sales worker after boss patted her breast

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Gordon Deegan

A fashion retailer has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a sales assistant who had her left breast "patted" by her boss in front of a colleague at a staff meeting.

In a harassment and discrimination case at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudication officer Eugene Hanly made the award chiefly as a result of the firm failing to inform the woman of the outcome of the disciplinary investigation into the manager's conduct.

The firm suspended the manager and he immediately resigned his position after meeting with the firm's area manager.

In the incident, on June 18, 2018, the woman's boss is alleged to have placed his hand on her chest, pulled up her top, patted her left breast and said: "We will cover them up for this meeting."

The incident took place at a staff meeting to discuss the potential closure of the store.

In her evidence at the WRC, the woman said she "immediately felt uncomfortable, intimidated and violated". She added that the incident had an immediate detrimental effect on her health and she was certified unfit for work on sick leave.

Two days later, on June 20, 2018, the woman made a complaint over the incident to the "team voice representative".

According to the fashion retailer, the alleged perpetrator was immediately suspended from work.

The senior area manager and area manager met the complainant on July 31 and the area manager met the alleged perpetrator, with the manager immediately resigning.

The firm accepted vicarious liability and Mr Hanly found that the complainant "experienced a behaviour/conduct perpetrated by her immediate manager and witnessed by a colleague that she believed was unwarranted conduct which in her opinion violated her dignity and created an intimidating environment".

He added: "I find that sufficient evidence was produced to establish the presumption of discrimination."

The woman made a number of efforts to find out the outcome of the investigation of her complaint.

The firm told her in one letter: "Unfortunately, I will not be in a position to discuss the outcome of these investigations with you."

After further attempts to discover the outcome of the investigation, the woman told the firm: "I have heard nothing. This has caused me considerable distress and upset and has required me to seek medical advice."

The firm would say only that the alleged perpetrator was no longer in the business and Mr Hanly deemed this insufficient.

Irish Independent

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