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File photo Sam Boal/

Nursing home operator ordered to pay worker €30k after she was cornered by patient touching himself

The case was brought before the Workplace Relations Commission.

A NURSING HOME operator has been ordered to pay €30,000 compensation to a healthcare assistant after she was cornered by a patient with dementia touching himself sexually and racially abused by a drunk patient.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudicator David James Murphy found that Vanessa Rodrigues Linhan was subjected to “serious racial and sexual harassment which made her legitimately fear for her safety”.

Murphy said that he was satisfied from Rodrigues Linhan’s evidence “that these actions had a huge impact on her and her relationship with her employer”.

Finding Carechoice Swords 2 Ltd liable for the harassment and sexual harassment, Murphy has ordered the company to pay the €30,000 to Rodrigues Linhan.

Murphy said both sexual and racial harassment of Rodrigues Linhan occurred where the complainant “provided undisputed and detailed oral evidence recounting these episodes”.

In the case of sexual harassment, Rodrigues Linhan – who worked at the care home for five months – said that one night, Patient B was touching himself and was trying to get her to go into his room.

She said that he was much larger than her “and ended up cornering her in the room while touching himself. She had nowhere to go and no one was around to help her”.

Rodrigues Linhan said that she had to pick up a can of deodorant and only then did the man retreat.

She said that the view from the nurses was that Patient B has dementia “and he is like that and these kind of things can happen”.

Murphy said that Patient B sexually harassed Rodrigues Linhan in a “serious and frightening manner”.

Murphy said Patient B “cornered her in a room while touching himself sexually”.

Racial harassment

In relation to Patient A’s racial harassment, Rodrigues Linhan said that Patient A would often leave the home and return drunk.

On 20 December 2022, she said that Patient A had been in the pub and became angry and abusive that night.

Patient A came out of his room in his underwear and went straight to the nurse’s station where Rodrigues Linhan was.

Patient A was aggressive towards Rodrigues Linhan and started to say very racist things and took a Christmas decoration and pushed it into her chest.

Rodrigues Linhan was terrified and felt the staffing levels at night were not safe where there were three health care assistants and two nurses for 46 patients.

Murphy also found that Rodrigues Linhan “was racially harassed by Patient A when he “assaulted her while shouting racial abuse”.


Finding the Carechoice firm liable, Murphy found that the firm has failed to establish that they took reasonably practicable steps to avoid the harassment by Patients A and B and as such is liable.

Murphy remarked that the operator’s Director of Nursing and Assistant Director of Nursing appeared to be considerate and professional people.

He said that when they became aware of an issue they sought to address it.

He said: “However, when countering harassment the most important tier of management will be the victim’s immediate supervisor who is on hand to actually react to incidents and risks. More senior staff offering support after the fact is no substitute for this.”

The Assistant Director of Nursing told the hearing that she had received no complaints regarding staffing levels.

The Director of Nursing said that Patient A was apologetic when told that Ms Rodrigues Linhan was intimidated by him.