Monday 24 June 2019

Woman claims chef sexually harassed her at work

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Tim Healy

A catering assistant who claimed she was bullied and sexually harassed by her chef/manager has settled a High Court action for damages against her former employer.

Caroline Dargan (37), a mother-of-two from Graiguecullen, Carlow town, claimed David O'Keefe, her manager at the Teagasc canteen in Carlow, would regularly get himself into positions in the small confined kitchen so that she and others would have to rub up against him as they passed by.

She said he commented on her underwear before eventually pulling at it and deliberately walked behind her any time she had to bend down to get something from a press.

On one occasion, he burst into the staff changing room, while she had only a bra and trousers on, and attempted to block her exit until she threatened to scream.

Ms Dargan sued Baxt­erstorey Ireland, a Dublin-based hospitality company providing on-site catering services to organisations around the country. She claimed there was, among other things, a failure to provide a safe system of work and a failure to prevent any improper behaviour by employees.

She claimed the company failed to act on her complaints about Mr O'Keefe.

After going out on maternity leave in July 2010, she found herself unable to return as he continued to work there.

She was diagnosed with severe adjustment disorder and in a subsequent employment as a hotel supervisor said that as a result of her experience had great difficulty in dealing with male customers and chose not to employ any males.

Baxterstorey lodged a full defence to the case, claiming it was statute barred. It claimed when it learned of the incidents complained of in January 2010, it confronted Mr O'Keefe who claimed the problems were the result of the ending of a relationship between them.

She denied there was any relationship and said they had just been friends. The defendant said Mr O'Keefe was acting outside the scope of his employment, but it denied not responding to her complaints.

Ms Dargan had finished direct examination by her counsel Aidan Doyle when Mark Connaughton SC, for the defendant, asked Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan for a short break before cross-examination began.

When it resumed, Mr Doyle said the case had been settled and could be struck out with no order save that it be noted there had been no claim for loss of earnings or paid for in the settlement.

Irish Independent

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