Thursday 22 August 2019

Female shop assistant who was sexually harassed on a daily basis for six months awarded €40,000

The Workplace Relations Commission awarded damages of €40,000
The Workplace Relations Commission awarded damages of €40,000

Gordon Deegan

A female shop assistant who was repeatedly called ‘thunder tits’ and other offensive comments by a manager as part of daily sexual harassment endured by her over a six month period has been awarded €40,000.

This follows Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Marian Duffy ordering that the worker be awarded the maximum award she can receive under the Employment Equality Act for sexual harassment.

Ms Duffy stated that the higher award is applicable “given the inexplicable failure of management to prevent the discriminatory treatment”.

Ms Duffy also pointed to "the serious nature of the discriminatory treatment that the worker was subjected to over a period of six months including being physically assaulted a number of times and the distress and indignity suffered by her and the impact it had on her health requiring her to go on sick leave".

Ms Duffy stated that the trauma for the worker “of recalling these events was still evident on the day of the hearing, a matter which I have also considered in assessing the amount of redress”.

Ms Duffy stated: “I found the evidence of the Complainant very credible and the Respondent did not call any evidence to contradict the complainant’s version of events.”   

As a result of the daily sexual harassment the woman went on certified medical leave in April 2018 and was prescribed antidepressant medication.

The part-time low paid worker was paid €9.35 an hour and didn’t return to work before resigning in November 2018.

The woman said that after returning to work after maternity leave in November 2017, she was subjected to sexual comments from an Assistant Manager on a regular basis.

The woman alleged that the Assistant Manager stopped calling her by her name and called her “big tits” and later on “thunder tits”.

The worker stated that over the six months, the Assistant Manager called her sexually offensive names, called her a thick b****, made sexually explicit gestures towards her, made offensive comments about her breasts, asked her to engage in lewd acts and suggested she provide sexual favours for him in return for keeping her job. 

The woman stated that the Assistant Manager frequently threatened to kick her up the a*** when she was standing on a stool packing higher shelves and did so on four occasions when she was packing lower shelves while making sexually explicit comments to her.

She alleged that he also hit her on the head with a box.

The woman stated that the Assistant Manager sexually harassed her every day she worked with him from November 2017 until she made a written complaint to Human Resources on April 29th 2018.

The worker said that she asked the Assistant Manager to stop a few times and he just told her to f*** off.

She said that the Manager and the other Assistant Manager and Deputy Managers heard him and frequently laughed along with him.

The Complainant said that she took precautions to avoid the Assistant Manager hitting her and wearing baggy clothes, but this elicited more sexually offensive comments from him.

The worker stated that she made a formal complaint to Human Resources (HR) at the end of April 2018.

The woman alleged that she was subject to harassment by other staff members because she had made a complaint.

She stated that some of the staff completely ignored her and she heard that one of the Deputy Managers called her 'a dirty little rat' and the other Deputy Manager made threatening comments directly to her.

She said after she made the complaint about the Assistant Manager “things were worse for her than before she made it”.

The retailer stated that her complaint of sexual harassment was upheld and after making the complaint, the Assistant Manager was suspended pending the investigation.

The retailer told the WRC that the Complainant’s complaint “was taken extremely seriously, investigated quickly and effectively with due respect to all parties concerned and her complaint was fully upheld”.

The retailer stated: “The perpetrator was suspended as soon as the complaint was made and was transferred as part of his disciplinary sanction. The Store Manager was also moved to another store.”

However, in her ruling, Ms Duffy rejected the retailer’s case given the "inexplicable failure of its Managers to take appropriate action under the policies to prevent the discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment of the complainant". 

As part of her order, Ms Duffy has also directed that a revised Anti Bullying & Harassment Policy be given to all the retailer's staff and management and that the policy be effectively communicated to all staff and they are fully acquainted with its contents.

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