SECTION 27, EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACT, 1977
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY CONOR DIGNAM B.L.
INSTRUCTED BY O'GRADY'S, SOLICITORS)
1. Alleged unfair dismissal of the worker in contravention of Section 27 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977.
2. The claimant commenced employment with the Company in June, 1995. She was employed as a receptionist/typist. Her employment ceased in December, 1995. The worker claims that during the period of her employment she became the focus of sexual harassment by the Managing Director. The worker further claims that she was dismissed from her employment because she refused his advances.
The Company rejects the allegations of sexual harassment and states that the worker was dismissed because of her poor work performance.
On the 3rd of December, 1996 the worker, through her legal representative referred the complaint to the Labour Court under Section 27 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977. The Court investigated the dispute on the 11th of September, 1997 (the most suitable date available to the parties).
3. 1. The claimant alleges that the Managing Director of the Company made personal remarks to her which were suggestive, loaded with innuendo and intrusive.
2. The behaviour complained of commenced within the first week of her employment.
3. The reason given for her dismissal by the Company was that there was a personality clash between the claimant and the Managing Director which the claimant rejects.
4. The Company purchased a uniform for the worker less than one month prior to her dismissal. Uniforms are only purchased for permanent staff.
5. The claimant was not given any warnings that her work performance was not up to the standard required by the Company.
6. The manner in which the worker was dismissed was a fundamental breach of principals of fair procedures.
4. 1. The Company refutes the allegations of the worker in their entirety.
2. The Managing Director and other members of the management team were dissatisfied with the claimant's work progress. The Managing Director had several discussions with the claimant regarding her ability to carry out her duties effectively.
3. The worker was dismissed because she failed to reach the standard of competency expected by the Company. Furthermore, her telephone manner, standard of typing and level of absenteeism were unacceptable to the Company.
4. While the complainant may have been spoken to on numerous occasions by the Managing Director, these discussions were all related to the way she was doing her job.
5. The Managing Director rejects the allegations that any behaviour of a sexual nature or comments of a sexual nature occurred.
6. There are signed statements by different individuals in the Company attesting to the Managing Director's character and integrity and to the poor work performance of the claimant.
The Court’s investigation of this case was made extremely difficult by the fact that conflicting evidence was given by the parties on most of the relevant issues.
The Court was further hampered in its investigation by the fact that a witness, whom the Court considered to be important, failed to answer a letter sent to her by the Court, failed to collect a Summons to attend issued by the Court and failed to attend the hearing of the case.
The claimant’s case was that she had been subjected to unwelcome attention, comments, suggestions and leering from the Managing Director over the period of her employment. She specifically highlighted an alleged incident at the Christmas party, when, she claimed, the Managing Director had invited her to go to a private party, and accompanied his invitation with suggestive remarks.
The claimant also stated that at the meeting at which she was dismissed, the Managing Director said that she was being dismissed because of a personality clash between himself and the claimant.
The Managing Director denied all such allegations, and claimed that the claimant was incompetent, and that this was the reason for her dismissal. Both the Managing Director and the Administration Manager, the latter having been present at the meeting when the claimant was dismissed, denied that there had been any reference at that meeting to a personality clash between the Managing Director and the claimant.
In relation to the reason given by the company to justify the dismissal of the claimant, namely incompetence, the Court is of the view that it lacks credibility. The claimant had worked through an extremely busy few months in a key position. Furthermore, senior personnel in the company disagreed as to whether a decision had in fact been taken to dismiss her. The Court also found the company’s explanation for the dismissal of the claimant in Christmas week unsatisfactory. It was also difficult to understand why the claimant would have been given an extremely good reference by the company’s marketing manager if she had in reality been incompetent, as was alleged.
However, the issue before the Court was whether the worker was dismissed from her employment in circumstances which amounted to discrimination within the meaning of Section 3 of the Employment Equality Act 1977. Specifically, the worker alleged that she had been sexually harassed by the Managing Director, and that her dismissal had occurred because she had resisted his advances.
Having considered all the information presented, the Court is not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that case.
The Court, therefore, cannot be satisfied that the complaint is well-founded.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th February, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Order should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.