A female deli worker who was kissed on the neck against her will and pinched by a male colleague has been awarded €20,000 for ongoing sexual harassment.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudication Officer, Gaye Cunningham has ordered the employer, a supermarket, pay the worker €20,000 for the distress suffered by her and the effects of the discrimination and sexual harassment.
Ms Cunningham stated that she was satisfied that all of the incidents of harassment and sexual harassment as alleged by the complainant did occur.
She stated: “Furthermore, I am satisfied that these incidents were extremely serious in nature in terms of the impact and effect they had on her personally and her working environment.”
Ms Cunningham also found that the supermarket “failed to put appropriate measures in place to stop this harassment and sexual harassment from occurring or to reverse its effects”.
Ms Cunningham has also ordered that all staff within the supermarket company who have staff management functions receive appropriate training in its policies on harassment and sexual harassment and bullying and harassment.
The deli worker started working for the supermarket in May 2018 and alleged the verbal and physical sexual harassment by a male colleague began approximately one month after.
The deli worker gave evidence that the alleged perpetrator physically assaulted her by pinching her, by trying to kiss her and at once point kissed her on the neck against her will.
She stated that he made inappropriate sexual comments about young girls who came into the shop and when asked to stop as they were clearly young school girls, he stated that they looked old enough.
The complainant gave evidence of incidents where she felt personally threatened when, for example, the alleged perpetrator pinned her against or near a fridge and made lewd and sexually suggestive comments to her.
She stated that a manager witnessed some of the behaviour and when asked to intervene, the manager laughed and told the man to stop as the deli worker was from Limerick and she would stab him.
The complainant stated that she was subjected to almost daily sexual assault/harassment.
The woman made a formal complaint concerning the sexual harassment and a second female employee had also made an allegation that the man had touched her inappropriately.
The man was moved to work in the storeroom.
However, after a few days there, he went on sick leave.
The deli worker was not told what was happening with her formal complaint and she stated that she was then left with no option but to resign her employment and she handed in her notice on January 18th, 2019.
The deli worker stated that her male colleague’s behaviour was a violation of dignity in that it created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for her.
The deli manager did admit at the WRC to telling the alleged perpetrator to stop as the complainant was from Limerick and she would stab him.
However, he considered this a joke and did not think the complainant was upset about this.
The owner of the store stated that he put the allegations to the male deli worker and he denied them.
The owner stated that the male worker went out on sick leave, ceased contact with the business and it is believed returned to his home country.
The owner stated that the investigation into the complaints could not be concluded as the alleged perpetrator had left the country.
Ms Cunningham found that the supermarket failed to conclude its investigation and make a decision is the most egregious flaw in the process.
Ms Cunningham stated that the employer was keen to point out the natural justice afforded to the alleged perpetrator but “did so at the expense of the complainant and closure for her of this appalling experience”.