Chef who asked colleague for kiss after All-Ireland win awarded €17,500

Avid GAA supporter accused of sexual harassment was unfairly dismissed

The avid GAA supporter said he was ‘elated’ and in ‘high spirits’ after the Dublin football team won the ‘four in a row’ last year. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The avid GAA supporter said he was ‘elated’ and in ‘high spirits’ after the Dublin football team won the ‘four in a row’ last year. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

A chef who was sacked and accused of sexual harassment after asking a female colleague for a kiss when Dublin won the All-Ireland has been awarded compensation of €17,500 for unfair dismissal.

The avid GAA supporter told the Workplace Relations Commission that he was “elated” and in “high spirits” after the Dublin football team won the “four in a row” last year.

He was leaving work to attend the homecoming celebrations, and told his female co-worker that he thought this “deserves a kiss”, pointing to his cheek. He later described the comment as “simply banter”.

However, the female worker replied “I’ll give you a smack”, and made a formal complaint of sexual harassment.

The chef was immediately suspended on full pay pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident. Three witnesses were interviewed as part of this process, and a decision was taken to dismiss him.

An adjudication hearing of the WRC was told the chef had worked for his employer, a contract catering company, for almost three years at the time of his dismissal.

However, he had only worked on location with the female complainant for four days when the incident occurred. He had previously asked her to go to the cinema with him, but she had rejected the offer.

‘Not appropriate’

Later that night, he reflected on the exchange and concluded that he may have done something “not appropriate”. He told the WRC he had said “the wrong thing to the wrong person”.

In his decision, WRC adjudication officer Eugene Hanly noted the company had a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. However, he said that such a policy ran the risk of not having regard to the gravity of individual cases.

“I have considered these instances and conclude that they were on the very low scale of possible harassment or sexual harassment,” he stated.

There was no evidence the chef had been persistent or demanding in his demeanour towards his female colleague, and the sanction of dismissal was “wholly disproportionate”, according to Mr Hanly.

“I find no basis for the decision to dismiss ... Alternatives to dismissal were not seriously considered,” he said.

Mr Hanly also noted that it was improper to have behaved in such a manner after just four days working at the new location. He had contributed to his dismissal with this behaviour, he said.

Finding that the decision to dismiss had been both procedurally and substantively unfair, the adjudication officer ordered the catering company to pay compensation of €17,500 to its former employee.