Retailer told to pay woman €15,000 after boss ‘patted’ her breast

Employee took case against fashion firm after incident at meeting witnessed by colleague

A fashion retailer has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a sales assistant who had her left breast ‘patted’ by her boss in front of a colleague at a staff meeting. Image: iStock.

A fashion retailer has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a sales assistant who had her left breast ‘patted’ by her boss in front of a colleague at a staff meeting. Image: iStock.

 

A fashion retailer has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a sales assistant who had her left breast ‘patted’ by her boss in front of a colleague at a staff meeting.

In a harassment and discrimination case, the Workplace Relations Commisison (WRC) heard that the incident happened on June 18th, 2018, during a meeting to discuss the potential closure of the store.

The manager was alleged to have placed his hand on the woman’s chest, pulled up her top, patted her left breast and said ‘we will cover them up for this meeting’.

In her evidence, the woman stated that she “immediately felt uncomfortable, intimidated and violated” and that the incident had an immediate detrimental effect on her health and she was certified unfit for work.

The woman made a complaint over the incident two days later and the retailer told the WRC the manager was immediately suspended from work.

A senior area manager and an area manager met the woman on July 31st, 2018 and the area manager also met the alleged perpetrator, who immediately resigned his position.

‘Violated’

The firm accepted vicarious liability in the case and WRC adjudication officer Eugene Hanly found that the complainant “experienced a behaviour/conduct perpetrated by her immediate manager and witnessed by a colleague that she believed was unwarranted conduct which in her opinion violated her dignity and created an intimidating environment”.

“I find that sufficient evidence was produced to establish the presumption of discrimination,” he said.

The woman made a number of efforts to find out the outcome of the investigation of her complaint from the firm. In one letter, she was told: “Unfortunately I will not be in a position to discuss the outcome of these investigations with you”.

Mr Hanly stated that this was repeated a number of times “and I note that this caused considerable concern and unhappiness for the complainant”.

After further attempts to find out the outcome of the investigation, the woman told the firm: “I have heard nothing. This has caused me considerable distress and upset and has required me to seek medical advice”.

The firm would only say that the alleged perpetrator was no longer in the business and Mr Hanly deemed this insufficient.

He made the €15,000 award to the woman chiefly as a result of the firm failing to inform her of the outcome of the disciplinary investigation, which he said she was entitled to know.

The woman resigned from her post on October 8th last and failed in a separate case of constructive dismissal against the company.