In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), a restaurant has been ordered to pay €20,000 in compensation to a bar manager who identifies as gay after a director called him ‘queer’ almost every day at work.
‘Director A,’ who was the main perpetrator of harassment, claimed the comments made to the bar manager were just ‘banter.’
WRC Adjudication Officer, Marian Duffy, refuted the claim that the use of ‘queer’ towards the bar manager was just banter. According to The Independent, Ms. Duffy said: “I cannot comprehend how senior managers in a workplace would consider it acceptable to call such offensive names or make such offensive comments to a gay man.”
She continued: “I am satisfied that it is a breach of their trust and duty of care towards their employee to create and tolerate such a degrading and offensive work environment.”
The €20,000 was required to be paid to the bar manager under the Employment Equality Acts. Along with the payment, the restaurant was told staff training should be put in place aimed at preventing harassment.
The hearing revealed that the word ‘queer’ was used inappropriately by ‘Director A’ on many occasions over time. ‘Director A’ used the phrase “that pair of queers” to describe two men sitting in the restaurant in front of the bar manager. ‘Director A’ also referred to a red Mercedes car that the bar manager had purchased as a “lovely queer car” and said that “all you need now is a nice scarf and you’ll be a proper queer driving around.”
It was also reported that ‘Director A’ made inappropriate comments about the bar manager eating sausages at a management meeting.
A WhatsApp message from ‘Director A’ to the bar manager on June 24, 2017, read: “Happy Pride Day ye Big Queer.”
The hearing revealed that comments became so frequent that they were normalised. ‘Director A’ was continually told to stop, but comments using the word ‘queer’ remained a near-daily occurrence.
The bar manager’s husband and two former members of staff gave evidence of hearing some of the comments made by both ‘Director A’ and ‘Director B’.
In response, ‘Director A’ claimed that he knew the word ‘queer’ was commonly used by LGBT+ people and did not mean to use it offensively. ‘Director A’ also noted having many gay and lesbian friends. He said the WhatsApp message related to Pride was meant to be a joke.
Three witnesses gave evidence on behalf of the restaurant and they all said that none of them witness any derogatory comments directed towards the bar manager.
In January 2018, the bar manager was handed a letter confirming that he was being made redundant. He believed that he was dismissed because of his sexual orientation. ‘Director A’ claims the dismissal was due only to financial reasons.
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