Tuesday 20 August 2019

Schoolgirl gets €4.5k for sex harassment by restaurant owner

Stock image
Stock image

Gordon Deegan

A Leaving Cert student has told how her restaurant boss would place his hands on her hands while she was marinating meat in the restaurant kitchen.

The incident was one of 10 alleged incidents of sexual harassment documented by the girl at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

WRC adjudication officer Joe Donnelly ruled that the girl had experienced actions and behaviour that came within the definition of sexual harassment, and that the restaurant owner was responsible.

Mr Donnelly ordered the restaurant to pay the girl €4,551, including €3,500 for the sexual harassment claim.

The hearing was told that the girl worked part-time as a kitchen porter at the family-owned restaurant.

In the series of alleged sexual harassment incidents, she said that the restaurant owner told her that she had "lovely legs".

When passing through the kitchen, she said he would rub his body up against hers, and that he told stallholders on a work trip that she was "his bit on the side".

The student also alleged that the owner pinned her against shelves in a container and rubbed his body against her before she eventually freed herself.

In a separate incident in his daughter's bedroom, he tried to kiss her.

Rubbish

The girl left the job when the owner rubbed some bits of rubbish into her face.

She told the WRC that she was not going to put up with any further ill-treatment and did not return to work after April 21, 2018.

The owner denied acting in any way improperly or in the manner outlined by the girl.

As part of her case, the girl produced text messages from the owner.

One said, "Ok babe c u xxx". Another, "You no like ok I understand".

Mr Donnelly said: "This is clearly an inappropriate exchange between an employer and an employee, all the more so when the age and gender of the employee are taken into account."

Mr Donnelly said it also cast doubts on the restaurant owner's assertions that nothing inappropriate had occurred.

"When questioned about this text, the respondent stated that he may have had a drink taken when he sent the text," Mr Donnelly stated.

"This does not explain or excuse his actions."

In his findings, Mr Donnelly said: "On the balance of probabilities the main issue which caused the complainant to leave her employment was the harassment that she had experienced in the workplace and that consequently the complainant was constructively dismissed."

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