An Post has been ordered to pay a postal worker €53,560 in damages after the employee was sexually harassed at work, reports RTE.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) arbitrator Hugh Lonsdale ordered a post to pay Catherine Kelly the maximum two-year salary of €53,560.
Mr. Lonsdale said he received the highest award because of how poorly a post adhered to its own dignity in work ethics during both the investigation and appeal stages of Ms Kelly’s complaint.
Ms Kelly alleged that she had been sexually harassed and An Post failed to deal with her complaint in accordance with its own procedures, to which An Post said that that it followed all the procedures and dealt with the matter appropriately.
However, Mr Lonsdale said that An Post failed to defend Ms Kelly’s claim and that she had “succeeds in her complaint of sexual harassment”.
In his ruling, Mr Lonsdale said An Post is a large organization with the resources to ensure compliance with its rules.
He said: “It is unclear why local managers deemed it appropriate to appoint themselves to deal with such a complaint locally, with virtually no reference to HR. Also, I do not understand why HR allowed the person who carried out the initial flawed investigation to participate in the appeal process,” reports RTE.
As part of his order, Mr Lonsdale ordered that all members of An Post’s supervisory and management staff receive full dignity at work – anti-bullying training.
Mr Lonsdale stated: “That training must include full guidance and practical steps in how a complaint should be dealt with…All new supervisors and managers must receive this training as part of their induction programme,” reports RTE.
In that case, Ms Kelly — who continues to work with a post — alleged that on February 22, 2022, she was inappropriately touched at work by a co-worker, a postal sorter.
Ms Kelly claimed she was talking to a friend when a mailman approached her from behind and placed his hand on the inside of her right thigh, bringing it down to her knee.
Ms Kelly claimed he pushed her away and shouted: “I warned you before not to put your hands on me like that,” reports RTE.
On February 24, Mail Serter told her that he only touched her in a friendly way.
Ms Kelly reported the incident on February 22 to the floor manager, who reported it to the floor staff.
On February 25, Ms. Kelly made a statement, gave a copy to the floor manager and asked him for a copy of the company’s Dignity at Work policy.
On March 8, Postal Serter presented his version of events and said only: “I have no knowledge about the alleged incident”, reports RTE.
In mid-May 2022, Ms Kelly was told the investigation was unresolved. Ms Kelly said she was not interviewed.
Ms Kelly found the investigation unsatisfactory and was forced to continue working with the man who committed the sexual assault and heard that he lied and was not convicted.
Ms Kelly moved buildings to avoid any gossip and claimed An Post had failed to follow its own procedures set out in its staff handbook.
Ms Kelly filed an appeal against the findings on June 1, 2022.
As part of the appeal, the postal sergeant was interviewed, shown CCTV footage and said he had not touched Ms Kelly inappropriately.
The appeal upheld the findings of the original investigation and found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the postal sergeant had physical contact with Ms Kelly, telling her that “the evidence accumulated in the original investigation, along with the additional statements I have secured, do not corroborate your version of events”, reports RTE.
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