She could see rats climbing trees to access food left for the birds
THE Labour Court has ordered a firm to pay €20,000 to a former employee suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the presence of rats and mice at her workplace.
In its determination, the Labour Court found that Amanda Byrne was victimised and suffered harassment and a discriminatory dismissal at the hands of her employers, Sea and Shore Safety Services Ltd, Dublin, in a dispute that stemmed from the firm's failure to deal adequately with a rodent problem at its Carrickmines premises.
Earthworks at an adjoining property resulted in a rodent problem at the marine safety training firm's property on the Glenamuck Road in Carrickmines in 2008 and the problem re-emerged in 2010.
Ms Byrne has had a long-term phobia of rodents and first reported a mouse running along her office desk in June 2008. She also reported seeing rats at an increasing rate around the property, on one occasion nearly stepping on a large rat outside her office in July 2010.
Ms Byrne told the court that she was terrified to walk from her car to the office after seeing a rat walk across the car park and on another occasion saw a rat run down the hall into the office area. She also stated that she could see rats climbing trees to access food left for the birds from her office window.
The problem was exacerbated by her employer laying poison for the rats around the property resulting in a stench from the dead rats' decaying on site.
A medical report relating to Ms Byrne found that she suffered from "excess anxiety and post-traumatic stress due to ongoing exposure to rodents at her place of work".
In a letter to her employers while still at work, Ms Byrne said: "For some time now I have been completely unhappy, stressed and nervous about coming into my workplace because of rodents.
"I know they are out there but I can't cope when they are looking at me from my desk and I'm jumpy in case I walk on a rat. I require a safe working environment. At the very least I expect the office to be free of rodents.
"I have given a lot to Sea & Shore and (see) Michael (Langran) and Susan (Langran) as close friends and love you dearly. I am so sad that this issue escalated to this."
Managing Director Michael Langran told the court that in retrospect the company did not do enough to accommodate Ms Byrne.
Ms Byrne took certified sick leave in periods during 2008 and again in 2010. She returned to work in August 2010 to be confronted by the smell of dead rodents and the Labour Court found that she also encountered a hostile and intimidating environment towards her in relation to her fresh complaints.
She left work never to return and the firm made her redundant the following month due to what it stated were its deteriorating finances. However, Ms Byrne claimed that the redundancy was a sham.
Overturning a ruling last year by an equality officer dismissing Ms Byrne's case, the Labour Court has now found that Ms Byrne's complaints in relation to victimisation, harassment and dismissal were well-founded and ordered the payment of the €20,000 by the firm.
The firm yesterday did not return a call for comment on the court's ruling.