Tuesday 21 November 2017

Man keeps job at museum despite sexually harassing colleague

An investigation commissioned by the museum concluded the man kissed a woman and touched her buttocks on a number of occasions in the workplace.
An investigation commissioned by the museum concluded the man kissed a woman and touched her buttocks on a number of occasions in the workplace.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A member of staff at the National Museum who sexually harassed a colleague has been allowed to keep his job despite concerns about his behaviour towards female staff.

An investigation commissioned by the museum concluded the man kissed a woman and touched her buttocks on a number of occasions in the workplace.

During the course of the investigation the man admitted he had "problems with inappropriate use of the internet" and had developed "an obsession with tall women".

He also admitted fantasising after seeing "tall schoolgirls" in the museum café one day.

The man denied knowingly sexually harassing his work colleague, claiming if he had realised his behaviour was inappropriate, he would have stopped. But this was rejected by an investigation team.

However, he admitted his work colleague had been "a foil for his fantasies".

The man said he had been guilty of "unhealthy thoughts" while working with the woman and that his behaviour at times had been "out of order".

An unpublished investigation report by consultants Conal Devine & Associates, who investigated the complaint, revealed that when the woman initially made an informal complaint about the harassment, the man was given other duties.

But he was not told the real reason at the time. Some time after the investigation was completed the woman left the museum when her contract was not renewed. The man was then allowed to resume his earlier role.

It is not clear what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against him and he remains employed by the museum.

The woman did not make a criminal complaint and has not pursued civil proceedings against the museum.

The Irish Independent learned the details of the case just a week after it emerged a workplace well-being report had found a fifth of staff at the museum believed they were often subject to bullying.

One employee complained of having to deal with "bullies and perverts" and more than 40pc of staff were deemed to be at risk of developing anxiety or depression.

According to the Devine investigation report, the woman began to feel uncomfortable around the man from her first day in the job.

Complaint

She alleged he would kiss her on the cheek and the forehead and displayed over familiarity and a lack of sense of personal space. The woman said he frequently put his arm around her or placed his hand on the small of her back when they were going on tea breaks. She alleged he touched her buttocks on two occasions while they were alone in a room together.

The woman discovered that the man obtained her computer password while she was away and she could see from her internet history he had accessed sites containing pictures of scantily clad women.

After she made an informal complaint she saw less of him, but still came into contact with him around once a month. His computer access was also monitored. A formal complaint was later made by the woman at the suggestion of a senior staff member.

When questioned by the consultants, the man claimed he was a "naturally touchy feely" person and had not realised the woman's discomfort at his behaviour. He said he was told he was being reassigned due to increased workload. While there had been "a chat" with a more senior colleague at the time about his misuse of the internet and his behaviour with female staff, no names were mentioned.

The man told investigators he had developed an obsession with tall women and when he saw some tall schoolgirls in the museum one day he wanted to "prolong the fantasy" by measuring the height of his female colleague.

He said he had been attending counselling for 15 months and trying to get his life "back on track".

The counselling had taught him he was a poor judge of appropriate behaviour.

The National Museum's director, Raghnall Ó Floinn, declined to say what action was taken against the man. In a statement, he said: "The National Museum of Ireland takes all complaints seriously and these are dealt with under its dignity at work and disciplinary policies. The museum cannot comment on individual cases."

Irish Independent

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