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Sales Assistant Awarded €15,000 Discrimination Compensation after being ‘Patted’ on Breast by her Boss

A sales assistant who had her left breast ‘patted’ by her boss in front of a colleague at a staff meeting has been awarded €15,000 to at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

WRC Adjudication Officer Eugene Hanly, at the harassment and discrimination case, awarded that amount due to the firm failing to inform the woman of the outcome of the disciplinary investigation into the manager’s conduct.

The manager in question immediately resigned his position after meeting with the firm’s Area Manager and discovering that he was being suspended following the investigation.

The incident occurred during a staff meeting to discuss the possible closure of the store. DUring that meeting, on June 18th 2018, the woman’s boss is alleged to have put his hand on her chest, pulled up her top, patted her left breast and said, “we will cover them up for this meeting”.

The woman told the WRC that she “immediately felt uncomfortable, intimidated and violated”. She informed the hearing that it had an immediate detrimental effect on her health and she was certified unfit for work on certified sick leave. In addition to this she made a complaint on June 20th 2018 to the ‘Team Voice Representative’. The fashion retailer informed the hearing that the alleged perpetrator was immediately suspended from work.

Mr Hanly ruled 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”. The firm admitted vicarious liability in the case.

He commented: “I find that sufficient evidence was produced to establish the presumption of discrimination.”

The victim had made a number of attempted to ascertain the outcome of the investigation of her complaint from the firm. In one letter from the firm she was advised: “Unfortunately I will not be in a position to discuss the outcome of these investigations with you”.

After she more more efforts to discover the outcome of the investigation, the woman advised the firm: “I have heard nothing. This has caused me considerable distress and upset and has required me to seek medical advice”.

Mr Hanly ruled that the victim was entitled to find out the outcome of the investigation; was entitled to a decision on whether her complaint was upheld or not and was entitled to know what the outcome was, concerning her alleged harasser. He ruled that the fashion retailer has failed to address these matters and “as a consequence, I uphold her complaint of harassment and discrimination”.