A facilities group has been ordered to pay €30,000 compensation to a female catering assistant who had her bottom touched by a chef/manager in a number of sexual harassment incidents involving the senior male member of staff.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne, revealed in her ruling: “As an instance of sexual harassment, a pinch on the bottom may not be at the extreme end of the scale, but it is well within the definition of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It was also at the end of a continuum of incidents including a punch in the ribs, being sniffed at, constant unwanted touching and making offensive sexual remarks about the complainant to her husband.”
The €30,000 award is the equivalent of 18 months income for the employee. The company supplies catering services at the offices of a government department.
The Polish worker filed an official complaint of sexual harassment in relation to the bottom pinch to her employer on the day the incident took place, February 1 2018. The chef/manager denied the allegations and explained that he was holding a sanitiser bottle in his hand and that the bottle brushed up against the female.
After an official investigation by the employer the chef’s claims were accepted, along with his explanation of other issues filed by the female worker and by the entire team in the group.
As part of her ruling, Byrne stated that she believed the catering assistant when she claimed that the chef/manager pinched her bottom. She commented: “It is my view that the effect of the sexual harassment suffered by the complainant was compounded by the failure of the respondent to give any credence to her evidence and I find that, of itself, this demonstrated a lack of respect for her. To compensate for this treatment, I decide that the respondent is to pay the complainant compensation of €30,000, which is equivalent to 18 months’ wages.”