In the recent case of A Worker v A Restaurant, the Equality Tribunal found that a former waitress had been sexually harassed during the course of her employment and awarded her approximately €23,000 in compensation.
The Complainant was a Slovakian national who had come to Ireland with her daughter from Egypt. The Complainant secured employment as a waitress in the respondent’s restaurant and submitted to the Tribunal that during the interview process the restaurant owner had commented on her background in massage therapy, as she was a qualified masseuse.
From very early on in her employment, the Complainant was approached by the restaurant’s owner who said that he liked massages and asked if the Complainant would perform a massage on him “for fun”. The Complainant was often asked to come up to the owner’s office between 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm to perform a massage and that he would keep the office door locked during that time. The Complainant submitted to the Tribunal that the owner threatened her job security if she refused to give him a massage and, at the same time, the owner criticised her work performance as a waitress and her proficiencies in the English language.
The Complainant subsequently went on sick leave and her employment was terminated on the 15 June 2013.
At the tribunal hearing, the Respondent initially denied the Complainant’s claims and then alleged that she had seduced him. The Tribunal found that the Complainant’s evidence was consistent with her written statement and accordingly found that she had been sexually harassed in the workplace. The Tribunal noted in particular that the Respondent’s admission to a “complete vacuum” of any policies which might either raise awareness of sexual harassment or serve as a deterrent was a “regrettable omission” and was an “unacceptable departure” from the company’s obligations under statute. Accordingly, the Tribunal awarded the Complainant approximately €23,000 in compensation for the sexual harassment
Although the Equality Tribunal is now only dealing with legacy cases, this decision still highlights that harassment is still occurring in the workplace and is not something that employees should simply put up with.
If you are suffering from harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace then please do not hesitate to contact me.
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