Employee awarded €15,000 over religious harassment at work

Situation arose after company heard that a supervisor was intending to stage accident at work and make a claim, WRC told

A worker who said his supervisor failed to act when a colleague laughed at his tattoo of Jesus Christ, told him Polish people were “too religious” and insulted the Pope in front of him has been awarded €15,000 for racial and religious harassment at work.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was told the harassment started after the victim told his employer that his supervisor was planning to extort money from the company by staging an accident at work and making a personal injuries claim.

Andrzej Waszkiewicz’s claim under the Employment Equality Act against Allpro Services was upheld in a recent decision by the WRC.

In evidence, he said the supervisor – named in the decision as Mr A – told him he “wanted to extort money from the company by having an accident at work in order to obtain compensation”.

Mr Waskiewicz said it came just weeks into his new job at the firm and that he reported it to another supervisor and e-mailed human resources.

Days later, he overheard Mr A and a second employee, Mr C, calling him a “rat” and a “snitch”, he told the commission.

He said the bullying started with someone planting a roll of bin bags in his rucksack to “set him up for theft” and continued with Mr A dirtying windows he had just cleaned.

When he complained, HR told him the operations manager offered to move him to another work site but “failed to do so”.

Mr Waskiewicz, who told the WRC he was a Catholic and from Poland, said Mr C “made fun” of his race and religion in a series of episodes between October 12th, 2020 and October 22nd, 2020 and that his supervisor, Mr A, “did nothing to stop it”.

Mr C questioned his faith and laughed at his traditions, such as celebrating Christmas on December 24th, he said.

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Mr Waskiewicz said his colleague, Mr C, laughed at him while he was changing his T-shirt and revealed a tattoo of Jesus Christ – and also when he exclaimed “Oh my God!” in response to something happening in the building.

Mr C also “made derogatory comments about the Pope” and stated that “Polish people [are] too religious”.

Mr Waskiewicz, who represented himself at the hearing, said he reported the incidents as bullying but was asked to give an explanation only once.

There was “no mention about any formal investigation” and he was “never asked to give formal statements” nor received any statements from other staff on the matter, he said.

The company denied any discrimination and maintained Mr Waskiewicz had not established a prima facie case at hearing.

There was no dispute that the complainant had not reported the incidents of harassment to the company either.

It said it had set up a system to limit access to the area where personal property was stored to supervisors only after Mr Waskiewicz complained that someone had tried to set him up by putting a roll of bin bags in his rucksack.

The firm submitted that the complainant was offered work on another site at the time, but turned it down.

A HR officer for the company gave evidence of the policies and procedures in place at the time and said Mr Waskiewicz was made redundant after returning from annual leave in November 2020.

The fairness of his dismissal was not in dispute.

Adjudicating officer Louise Boyle wrote that it was “surprising” the company did not produce any witnesses who had been working with Mr Waskiewicz, who she said was a “credible” witness.

She said there seemed to be “no substantial investigation into the alleged bullying” and that as the HR officer who gave evidence wasn’t with the firm at the time, her evidence had to be taken as hearsay.

Ms Boyle found Mr Waskiewicz’s account “credible” and that the harassment had occurred as he described.

She wrote that the complainant had been subjected to discrimination which amounted to harassment on the grounds of race and religion.

Ms Boyle ordered the firm to pay €10,000 in compensation for the religious harassment and a further €5,000 for the racial harassment.

She also ordered the company to develop an anti-bullying policy and communicate it to all of its staff.