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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 25 October 2020

Fast food worker claimed supervisor said she reminded him of Benburb Street and had an 'arse like the back of a truck'

The WRC found against the woman in the case however, because the company followed its policies in the matter.

Image: Shutterstock/Gaus Alex

A FAST FOOD worker seeking compensation after claiming she was sexually harassed by her supervisor has failed with her complaint, after a hearing before the Workplace Relations Commission ruled her employer acted within its obligations in the matter.

The woman had claimed she was harassed on a “significant scale” which resulted in her taking a period of sick leave, leading to financial loss, severe anxiety and distress.

She said that her supervisor had made a number of comments to her that she found derogatory including being told she reminded him of Benburb Street and asking her if she hung out with prostitutes.

The woman also claimed she was told by the supervisor that she had an “arse like the back of a truck” when she wore a new uniform the team had been given. These comments would have been in front of others, and the uniform comment was heard by a customer who made a complaint, she said.

In its defence, the company denied having discriminated against the woman and said it hadn’t failed to handle her complaints reasonably.

It said it took the woman’s complaints very seriously, investigated them thoroughly and, by the time she returned to work after her sick leave, the supervisor had been moved to another location. 

‘Upset and humiliated’

The woman had been at the company since November 2016, and was paid €9.70 an hour.

While she claimed to have been subjected to derogatory comments from her supervisor prior to this, events in February 2017 regarding the comments about her uniform left her feeling “upset and humiliated”.

She said she then made a complaint to a manager and then also in an email to her employer on 1 March. She said she wasn’t immediately replied to but then met with the manager on 3 March. 

The woman was sent home from work, and it resulted in her taking a period of sick leave. She told the WRC adjudicator that the company’s response was “insufficient and completely inadequate”, and as a result was seeking compensation for her loss of earnings due to the time she took off as a result of the alleged sexual harassment. 

The company, however, maintained that it “met its responsibilities” in this regard. 

The 1 March email sent by the woman was sent to an incorrect address, it said. When the HR manager got to review the letter on 3 March, an investigation was immediately commenced, including interviewing the supervisor and other staff members. 

It said they both the woman and the supervisor that they could work at an alternate location during the investigation but that the former didn’t reply to this offer. The company further submitted that while investigating the matter, the worker didn’t engage with its fact-finding procedures. 

In regards to the sexual harassment claims, it found no one could corroborate the comments related to Benburb Street or the “arse” comments.

The company’s own investigation concluded that there was name-calling between the two parties, and that it had caused the woman upset. They issued a final written warning to the supervisor, scheduled him for retraining, and he was eventually moved away from that branch.

When the woman returned from sick leave after 20 weeks, she said she was subject to further bullying and rude treatment by a colleague. She acknowledged that there would have been banter between herself and the supervisor, but that over time it made her feel uncomfortable and had a “psychological effect” on her. 


In his adjudication, the WRC officer said while he was impressed with the evidence from the woman that she received “unwelcome verbal conduct of a sexual nature from her supervisor”, he was satisfied her employer had adequate policies in place to handle such a situation.

The adjudicator found the woman raised the issue at the WRC before exhausting all internal procedures at the company and that her employers dealt with the matters in a “reasonable fashion”.

“I do not find the respondent was in breach of its obligations under the Employment Equality Acts, and I do not uphold the complaint that the respondent has behaved unreasonably with the regard to the handling of the complainant, or that it has discriminated against the complainant in its handling of her complaints,” he concluded.

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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