Sunday 21 April 2019

Worker sues An Post over 'gay rumours and porn left on her bench'

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin

Tim Healy

A former postal sorting worker has told the High Court An Post failed to deal with bullying by colleagues involving "gay rumours" being circulated about her.

Claire Stephens (56), a married mother who worked in the Galway Mail Sorting Office, claims the bullying took place over a number of years and culminated in a pornographic postcard being left on her sorting bench.

She became so distressed by rumours in her workplace that she circulated a letter to her colleagues saying she was having suicidal thoughts.

Ms Stephens is suing An Post for personal injuries arising out of alleged bullying, which she says the company failed to deal with properly.

An Post denies her claims. It accepts the postcard incident happened but the offender was dealt with under the company disciplinary policy.

She was dismissed in 2016 and brought a separate case to the Labour Court for unfair dismissal, which was rejected and is currently being appealed.

Ms Stephens said that in 2006 after a female colleague attempted to kiss her in the staff toilets, the woman claimed it was a joke when she saw her reaction.

In 2008, another woman started hitting off her "with her boobs" each time she came over to Ms Stephens' bench.

After after some letters fell beside Ms Stephens' bench, "she purposely put her hand on my knee and started rubbing it. I had to run away".

The "final straw" was when the woman was admiring a necklace Ms Stephens was wearing and she "rubbed her arm up and down against my breast. I felt I was sexually assaulted".

In 2012, on the night shift, a young male co-worker came to her bench and left a postcard, which showed a picture of a woman's vagina with two fingers inserted into it. She said nothing but was worried what people would say.

Ms Stephens rang the human resources department but for five weeks nothing happened, she said.

In another incident, male colleagues talked about the length of her fingers and whether they were bent, a reference, she believed, to the postcard.

She made a formal complaint in March 2013 and her supervisor told her he had talked with the young man involved in the postcard incident and he was sorry for what he did. She claimed this was "a pep talk".

Ms Stephens said she lost half a stone, was unable to sleep and told her colleagues she was feeling suicidal.

After meeting the company counsellor, who sought details of her GP so he could check her medical history, she withdrew her statement of feeling suicidal because she believed she would be sent to hospital if she did not do so.

Under cross-examination by Marguerite Bolger SC, for An Post, she agreed that in an internal review of her case in 2014, none of her co-workers corroborated any of her complaints other than two who heard about the postcard incident but, Ms Stephens said, they "were never asked".

The case continues before Mr Justice Charles Meenan.

Irish Independent

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