A gay man who was called a “f****t” and continually harassed at his place of work by a colleague has been awarded €27,000 on the grounds of harassment and discrimination based on his sexuality.
The man in question appeared at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to make a claim and stated in evidence that a co-worker told another worker he “is a f****t” and went on to say “I better not sit beside him, or I’ll catch the gayness from him”. He went on to explain that these homophobic and immature comments were a daily occurrence that made him feel both under threat and humiliated in his place of work.
The plaintiff told the WRC that it was well known in the company he worked for that he was gay and the abuse he was facing in work was discrimination based on his sexuality. The gay man said he was harassed by a co-worker and team-leader specifically who would repeatedly laugh at him to his face and make derogatory and snide remarks about him, including passing comments on social media posts which included him and his partner.
The man began to work for the company, which is apparently and installation provider, in question in September 2017 as a scheduler. From this time he alleges to have been harassed continually by a team leader and other co-workers who openly mocked and ridiculed him based on his sexuality.
The complainant told the WRC that his mental health plummeted due to the ongoing homophobia he was facing in what he described as the most hostile environment that he’d ever worked in. The constant fear and alienation at work were so bad in fact that he was diagnosed with depression and had ended up A&E due to panic attacks.
The complainant stated that although his team leader often intervened and defended him, the manner of the Operations Manager’s investigation of his complaints of harassment was disastrous. He claimed that he was told, along with a work colleague who corroborated his claims, that they “were liars” and were told, “not to be wasting her time”.
WRC Adjudication Officer, James Kelly examined the case and said he found the complainant’s evidence “to be very credible” and stated that the employer had discriminated against the plaintiff on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
Kelly stated that the events described by the complainant were corroborated by the female colleague who originally tried to assist in reporting the harassment. Kelly said that the comments made by the team leader and colleagues towards the man over a long period “had the purpose and effect of violating his dignity”. He went on to say; “It has, without doubt, created an intense, hostile, humiliating and offensive environment for him in the workplace. It had a great burden on his physical and mental health where he was hospitalised.”
A representative for the company who attended the WRC hearing explained that the particular office that the man had worked in had closed down and all the staff had moved on. The company added to this that they held no records on the allegations or statements from the relevant people cited by the complainant and that they were not in a position to rebut the allegations raised against it by the complainant.
The plaintiff was awarded €27,000, which is the equivalent of 18 months gross pay and is to be paid by the employer. Kelly explained the award was granted under the Employment Equality Act for the continual distress suffered by the complainant and the negative toll this discrimination had on his health.
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