Equality Officer Finds Employee was Sexually Harassed at Christmas Party

Background to Complaint

The complainant commenced employment with the respondent as a waitress on a part-time casual basis on 9th October, 2004.

She stated that she felt uncomfortable in the presence of Mr. A, the General Manager of the hotel, from early in her employment although nothing untoward happened.
She attended the respondent’s Christmas party on 7th December, 2004 in the company of a friend and work colleague Ms. X.
The complainant alleged that around 3.00am Mr. A, who was sitting alone at the time, beckoned her to sit beside him. She added that he then told her she looked gorgeous that evening, that he wanted to go home with her and that they should get a taxi together. She contended that he repeated this phrase a number of times, although he did not touch her in an inappropriate manner.
She submitted that this behaviour constituted sexual harassment of her contrary to the Acts.
She further alleged discriminatory treatment when, early in the New Year there was a lay off of staff and she was not re-engaged.

Equality Officer Finds Sexual Harassment Did Occur

The Equality Officer noted that sexual harassment is “any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, being conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person”. The Equality Officer added that “it goes on to set out some examples of unwanted conduct which includes requests and spoken words”.
Finding in favour of the complainant the Equality Officer made the following order:

  1. That the respondent pay the complainant the sum of €12,000 by way of compensation for the distress and effects of the discrimination and harassment.
  2. That the respondent develop a code of Practice on Harassment on all of the nine discriminatory grounds covered by the Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2004, which is modeled on the Employment Equality Act, 1998 (Code of Practice)(Harassment) Order, 2002 and that this Code should be in place within 3 months from the date of this decision;
  3. That a copy of this Code is given to all existing and new staff (on arrival) and that staff are fully acquainted with its contents. In addition, copies of the Code, or a brief synopsis of it, should be displayed in prominent positions in areas of the hotel frequented by staff;
  4. That all staff who have staff management functions receive appropriate training in the policy and that this training is kept under review in light of developments/best practice in the area.

Case: Ms Z v A Hotel, Equality Tribunal, 2007

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