By Gordon Deegan
A female service station manager was harassed on the grounds of gender after her married boss told that she had "beautiful eyes" and criticised her management approach.
In the case, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the un-named service station business to pay its former manager €4,000 compensation over the harassment.
The woman successfully claimed harassment on the grounds of gender as a result of a site visit by the business’s area manager to the service station on July 8, 2016.
The woman told the WRC hearing that the way her area manager spoke to and behaved towards her on that date “left her feeling humiliated and undermined”.
She said that her boss made inappropriate comments in relation to how she performed in her role, namely questioning her method of invoicing, criticising the store layout, suggesting she should take a “step down” and threatening her with disciplinary action if she refused.
He also told her that the staff had no respect for her. During the same encounter, the area manager also told his colleague “that she had beautiful eyes”.
The service station manager made an internal complaint on the area manager’s overall comments and in an email to the company’s Human Resources (HR) department, the area manager accepted that he had commented on the woman’s eyes.
In his findings, WRC Adjudication Officer, Andrew Heavey stated: “I find that, within the context and tone of that conversations during the site visit, the complainant was justified in feeling uncomfortable with that remark.”
Mr Heavey said that he was satisfied “that the conduct of the area manager towards the complainant was harassing in nature” on July 8, 2016.
Mr Heavey said that the area manager made references to his own wife and her personality traits when discussing the complainant’s management style.
He said: “On that basis, I find that the complainant’s gender was a significant factor in the area manager's attitude towards her.”
The woman had separately claimed that the comment on her eyes amounted to sexual harassment but Mr Heavey said that he did not find that the man’s comments were sexual in nature and did not find that the woman was the subject of sexual harassment.
However, Mr Heavey said that the area manager behaved in a way that was “unsupportive and dismissive of the complainant which left her feeling humiliated and demeaned”.
He said: “I also find that his attitude towards her was one of criticism as opposed to one of support and assistance.”
According to Mr Heavey, the area manager accepted that he made the comment about his colleague’s eyes but denied much else of what he was accused of having said.”
Mr Heavey said that the attitude of the area manager towards the complainant was “inappropriate” on July 8, 2016.
The service station manager resigned with immediate effect on January 27, 2017.
However, Mr Heavey found that the woman’s claim for constructive dismissal was not well founded after finding that the employer did not behave in such a way that left the woman with no option but to resign.