herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

€15k for woman after boss 'pulled up her top and patted her breast'

'In her evidence at the WRC, the woman said she
'In her evidence at the WRC, the woman said she "immediately felt uncomfortable, intimidated and violated".' (stock photo)

A fashion retailer has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a sales assistant who had her left breast "patted" by her manager in front of a colleague.

In a harassment and discrimination case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudication officer Eugene Hanly made the award chiefly as a result of the firm failing to tell the woman the outcome of the disciplinary investigation into the man's conduct.

The firm suspended the manager and he immediately resigned after meeting with the firm's area manager.

In the incident on June 18 last year, the woman's boss is alleged to have placed his hand on her chest, pulled up her top, patted her left breast and said: "We'll cover them up for this meeting."

The incident took place at a staff meeting to discuss the potential closure of the store.

In her evidence at the WRC, the woman said she "immediately felt uncomfortable, intimidated and violated".

She said the incident had an immediate detrimental effect on her health and she was certified unfit for work on certified sick leave.

Two days later, on June 20, she made a complaint about the incident to the "team voice representative".

Suspended

According to the fashion retailer, the alleged perpetrator was immediately suspended from work.

The senior area manager and the area manager met with the complainant last July 31, and the area manager met with the alleged perpetrator as part of the investigation.

The man immediately resigned.

The firm accepted vicarious liability in the case, and Mr Hanly found the woman "experienced a behaviour/conduct perpetrated by her immediate manager and witnessed by a colleague that she believed was unwarranted conduct".

"In her opinion, it violated her dignity and created an intimidating environment," he said. "I find that sufficient evidence was produced to establish the presumption of discrimination."

The woman made efforts to learn the outcome of the investigation of her complaint.

The firm told her in one letter: "Unfortunately, I will not be in a position to discuss the outcome of these investigations with you."

Mr Hanly said this was repeated a number of times, "and I note that this caused considerable concern and unhappiness for the complainant".

The firm would only say that the alleged perpetrator was no longer in the business and Mr Hanly deemed this insufficient.

Mr Hanly found the woman was entitled to know the outcome of the investigation; was entitled to a decision on whether her complaint was upheld; and was entitled to know the outcome concerning her alleged harasser.

Mr Hanly said he found the firm had failed to address these matters and "as a consequence, I uphold her complaint of harassment and discrimination".

The woman resigned from her post last October 8, and failed in a separate case of constructive dismissal against the company.

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