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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019

Johnstown Garden Centre has been told to pay €4,000 over a worker's 'Nazi chant' claims

An ex-staffer told the Labour Court she was subjected to racially motivated abuse on the job.

Image: YouTube

JOHNSTOWN GARDEN CENTRE has been ordered to pay €4,000 to an ex-worker for its handling of alleged racial abuse she was subjected to while working in its café.

In a recent Labour Court case, Ala Berghie – who holds both Moldovan and Irish citizenship – told the court that she had complained to her former employer about a number of slurs made to her in the workplace.

From October 2010 until July 2015, she had worked on the catering staff at Johnstown Garden Centre in County Kildare, a well-known spot on the N7 road to Dublin.

Berghie’s complaints dated back to June 2015. The court heard claims that one colleague sang a chant about being part of “a Nazi family” which included the line: “If you don’t fit in, we will fuck you up.”

She also claimed that co-workers had told her that foreigners should “go back to your own country” and that one colleague had suggested houses in nearby Newbridge had been set on fire by foreigners, who were also referred to as “lazy” and “stupid”.

Berghie, who was represented by solicitor Richard Grogan, told the court that she had raised the issue with her manager, Seán Clarke, on 15 June 2015.

Written complaint

At that meeting, Clarke – who is a son of Johnstown Garden Centre founders John and Elsie Clarke – told Berghie that she needed to submit her complaints in writing before he could investigate them.

It was agreed that Berghie would submit a written complaint the following day, however she later said she needed until 26 June. She asked for an extension a third time but in the end didn’t put the issue into writing.

shutterstock_422119828 A garden centre Source: Shutterstock/ajlatan

During that time, Clarke wrote a letter to Berghie, enclosing a copy of the staff handbook which said that it would be “very helpful” if complaints about co-workers were submitted in writing.

Berghie eventually decided not to lodge a written complaint because she believed her colleagues were aware of what was going on. It was at this point that she decided to leave her job and seek legal advice.

Grogan told the court said that his client had complied fully with the respondent’s bullying policy, which made no mention of a requirement that complaints must be put in writing.

Inadequate policy

Clarke, who gave evidence on behalf of Johnstown Garden Centre, confirmed he didn’t investigate the complaints made verbally to him by Berghie.

Under cross-examination, he also accepted that the company’s staff handbook did not specify that an employee should set out their complaint in writing.

In its ruling, the Labour Court found that Johnstown Garden Centre “did not have an adequate anti-discrimination policy and associated complaints procedure in place”.

The garden centre’s lawyer had argued that Berghie failed to stand up the primary racial discrimination allegations.

Nevertheless, the court said it was “no defence” that the complaints of the magnitude raised by Berghie were not acted upon on the basis that the complaints were not presented in writing.

The court also said that it was not “best practice” for an employer to use a basic grievance or general bullying policy to deal with alleged infringements of equality laws.

As a result, Berghie was awarded €4,000 for the effects of discrimination.

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Written by Conor McMahon and posted on

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