Receptionist fired after refusing to have sex with her boss

WRC awards €46,000 to woman sexually harassed at car parts company

The WRC found the woman was subject to “a vile act of sexual innuendo” in a live web chat at the company. Photograph: Getty

The WRC found the woman was subject to “a vile act of sexual innuendo” in a live web chat at the company. Photograph: Getty

 

A car parts company has been ordered to pay €46,000 to a receptionist who was sacked after refusing to have sex with her boss.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) made the maximum award available – two years salary – after finding that the woman was sexually harassed by her boss.

WRC adjudication officer Marian Duffy said she was making the maximum award “given the completely inappropriate behaviour, and the fact the complainant lost her job because of the rejection of such behaviour”.

Ms Duffy also found that the woman was subject to “a vile act of sexual innuendo” in a live web chat at the company, which could be seen by many of the staff.

In her evidence at the hearing, the woman said at the company’s Christmas Party in a Kilkenny hotel in December 2016, the owner, referred to as “Mr A” in the WRC report, asked the woman to come to the bar and have a shot.

Not interested

Mr A told her that she was doing a good job and then told her that she was gorgeous and suggested that she could have any of the men at the party pointing at the other employees. The woman said that she was not interested in any of them. After that Mr A began to make unwanted advances to her and asked if she wanted to have sex with him.

The woman told the hearing that she felt very uncomfortable.

The incident occurred only two months after the woman started work at the firm. She was working in a nearby petrol station when the firm’s managing director told her there was a vacancy for a receptionist at the firm.

Part of her work was to answer questions on the company’s live web chat. She said she was keen to learn and went through archived transcripts of question and answer sessions.

She said she came across one exchange where a question posed requested a sexual favour: “I need to a blow job”. In reply, the managing director replied that it could not be provided because the complainant was not in that day.

The complainant said she approached the managing director and Mr A separately about the message and each man denied writing it. Mr A said the managing director wrote the message and the managing director said Mr A wrote it.

One day the complainant was not wearing any make-up and Mr A asked: “Did you lose your make-up? The woman said after that she made sure that she always wore make-up. The next day the owner commented that he was glad she had found her makeup again.

Increasingly uncomfortable

The complainant said she felt increasingly uncomfortable but as the problems related to the owner of the company, she felt unable to complain without risking her job.

In April 2017, she asked for a pay-rise from the managing director but was sacked instead. The managing director said it was because the owner said he could not talk to her anymore.

In the case, the woman was represented by the Clondalkin and Lucan Citizens Information Centre.

In his evidence to the hearing, Mr A denied the allegations concerning the Christmas Party.

He said any member of staff could have made the comments on the live web chat but he accepted the content was offensive.

The managing director told the hearing he let the woman go as she was not cut out for the job.

Ms Duffy said she was satisfied Mr A dismissed the complainant because he could not talk to her since she rejected the inappropriate treatment.