WRC orders restaurant to pay €20,000 in harassment claim

Amie Doran

June 27 2019

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WRC orders restaurant to pay €20,000 to gay bar manager The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) recently ordered a restaurant to pay €20,000 in compensation to a gay bar manager for offensive comments made by two directors of the business. ‘Banter’ The bar manager submitted a variety of incidents as evidence in his claim to the WRC hearing including being called ‘queer’ on an almost daily basis by one of the directors. On one occasion, when the bar manager was dining in the restaurant with his husband, the director referred to a drink ordered by the bar manager’s husband as a ‘queer’s drink’, and asked the employee would he ‘like a scarf and an umbrella to go with it?’ When the bar manager bought a new car, the director commented that the new vehicle was ‘a lovely queer car’. The second director of the business made an offensive comment at a management meeting in relation to sausages that the bar manager had been eating. When the bar manager returned a scarf he had borrowed from the same director, the evidence recorded that the director commented, ‘I hope I don’t catch gay off the scarf’. The bar manager submitted further evidence of WhatsApp group messages in which the directors referred to him as a ‘queer’ and a ‘steamer’. Both directors denied that the any of the comments and incidents were meant to cause offence. One director said that he considered the comments complained of to be banter and that as far as he understood it, the term ‘queer’ was embraced by the LGBT community. Resignation and redundancy The bar manager asked the first director to stop using the word ‘queer’ but the director continued to use the word persistently. In June 2017, the bar manager could no longer tolerate the way he was being treated and tendered his resignation. He was persuaded to stay without discussing the reasons he had handed in his resignation. The business later made the bar manager redundant in January 2018 on the basis that it was losing money. Harassment The Adjudication Officer (AO) found that it was inexplicable that senior managers of a business could consider it acceptable to make such offensive comments to a gay employee. She stated that, ‘I am satisfied that it is a breach of their trust and duty of care towards their employee to create and tolerate such a degrading and offensive work environment.’ The AO rejected the bar manager’s claim that he was dismissed on the basis of his sexual orientation but found that the restaurant had allowed the employee to be harassed on the basis of his sexual orientation. She ordered the restaurant to pay its former employee €20,000 in compensation, and further stated that staff training should be put in place aimed at preventing any further harassment under the nine grounds set out under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 – 2015. Need help with preventing harassment in your workplace? This case demonstrates the importance of preventing harassment in the workplace. The reputational and financial costs of a harassment case are severe for any employer. If you have any questions in relation to preventing harassment in your workplace, please contact Peninsula’s expert employment law advisors on 1890 252 923. Or if you would like one of our advisors to call you back, fill in your details here.    

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