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WRC grants maximum award to a Receptionist dismissed

Workplace Relations Commission: ADJ-00009794
A Receptionist v Car Parts Company

The Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) grants the maximum award available, two years remuneration, to a Receptionist after she was dismissed for refusing the sexual advances of her boss.

The Complainant was employed by the Respondent from the 6th October 2016 until the 13th April 2017. She had been working at a nearby petrol station when the firm’s Managing Director (“MD”) approached her regarding a vacancy for a receptionist at the firm. The Complainant stated that she attended an interview with the MD and the Owner (“Mr. A”). She said that they did not ask her for any information about her experience or qualifications, they just offered her the job.

In her evidence at the hearing, the Complainant stated that Mr. A made unwanted advances towards her at the Company’s Christmas Party in the Kilkenny Hotel in December 2016. He told her she was gorgeous and suggested that she could have any of the men at the party pointing at the other employees. When the Complainant informed him that she was not interested in any of them, he proceeded to ask her if she wanted to have sex with him.

Following on from the Christmas party, part of the Complainant’s job was to answer questions on the Company’s live web chat. She states that she was eager to learn and therefore she went through archived transcripts of question and answer sessions. She stumbled on to a live chat exchange where an unidentified person posed a question requesting a sexual favour: “I need a blow job.” The MD replied to the message saying that it could not be provided because the Complainant was not in that day.
The Complainant addressed the issue with the MD and Mr. A separately. Each man denied writing the message and blamed the other for writing it.

Additionally, there was one day when the Complainant attended work not wearing any make-up and Mr. A asked: “Did you lose your make-up?” The woman stated she felt so self-conscious as she suffered with bad skin and as a result she made sure that she always wore make-up to work. The next day Mr. A commented to the Complainant that he was glad she had found her make-up.
Due to the sequence of events, the Complainant felt increasingly uncomfortable and that she was unable to complain without risking her job as the problems related to the owner of the Company.

In April 2017, the Complainant asked the MD for a pay-rise but she was sacked instead. She was told that it was because the owner could not talk to her anymore.

At the hearing, Mr. A denied all the allegations concerning the Christmas Party. Furthermore, he stated that any member of staff could have made the comments on the live web chat. Although, Mr. A did accept the content was offensive.

Adjudication Officer Ms. Marian Duffy granted the maximum award “given the completely inappropriate behaviour, and the fact the Complainant lost her job because of such behaviour.” The Complainant was awarded €46,000 on the basis that Ms. Duffy was “satisfied that Mr. A dismissed the Complainant because he could not talk to her since she rejected the inappropriate treatment of her.”

Link: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2018/March/ADJ-00009794.html

For any queries, please contact Anne O’Connell Solicitors at info@aocsolicitor.ie or +353 1 2903580
26th March 2018

Anne O’Connell
1-3 Burton Hall Road
Dublin 18

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