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Woman who had photos taken of her by colleague awarded €8,000

The same man asked if the woman eats dogs.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

A WOMAN WHO was subjected to racial and sexual harassment at work has been awarded €8,000 by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The Asian woman began working at the company in May 2017 and resigned in November as she felt that her well-being was being affected.

The complainant had said that from early on in her employment, a senior colleague took several unwelcome Snapchats of her and sent them to his friends. She says that she asked him to stop and said his behaviour made her uncomfortable.

However, she claimed, he did not seem to care and carried on.

“On one occasion the said senior colleague showed the complainant the response from one of his friends, the caption on the Snapchat response was “cute chink”. The complainant felt very uncomfortable and degraded by this response.”

The complainant went on to say that the same colleague had made a comment about “looking for a girl in a nightclub because that could be what I’m into” after she had told him she was going out that weekend. Another incident occurred following a work outing.

“On the afternoon of Friday 30 June – the day following a social corporate night event – another person (male) knocked on the window of the office, the same senior colleague opened the window to talk to the person outside. The senior colleague pointed to the complainant and told the other person outside the window “that’s the one Stephen shifted last night”. At this point the attention of other colleagues sharing the same workroom as the complainant had been attracted. This episode was the cause of much embarrassment for the complainant.”

A month later, the colleague said to the complainant:

“I heard cats and dogs are the main meat sources of Asians, so do you like eating them?”

The following day the colleague asked the complainant how her night had gone and when she said “It was alright”, he asked “Because you didn’t get a shift?”.

That afternoon the complainant’s manager found her crying and asked her to take the weekend to decide how she would like the incidents dealt with.

After the weekend, she told her two managers that she would allow them decide how to proceed as she trusted them. The managers decided to deal with the issues informally and the man was asked to apologise. This apology was offered and accepted, with the complainant saying the atmosphere becoming more professional afterwards. However, the complainant felt that she became frozen out of the team after the apology and resigned in November 2017.

It was at this point the HR department was informed. After leaving, the complainant experienced some difficulty in obtaining a reference from the company.

Response and findings

In its response, the company said that all managers are trained in conflict resolution and dignity at work policies. The company said that the issue had been dealt with informally and the colleague had been surprised he had upset the complainant. The company said that it has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place and this could have been used to help the complainant.

In his findings, the WRC adjudication officer Jim Dolan said:

“I find that the complainant was harassed and sexually harassed and was the victim of discrimination within the meaning of the Act.”

He ordered the company to pay the woman €8,000 for “the distress and effects caused by the discriminatory treatment in her conditions of employment”.

He further ordered the company develop a code of practice on harassment in the workplace that should be in place within three months.

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