Two foreign nationals who were discriminated against after making formal complaints about their treatment in their separate workplaces have been awarded large sums in compensation by the Equality Tribunal.
A Cork-based agricultural suppliers firm was ordered to pay €20,000 to a Hungarian member of its staff over its failure to address both verbal and written complaints of a campaign of harassment by two Polish co-workers during 2010 and 2011.
McDonnell Brothers, based in Fermoy, Co Cork, was found to have been discriminated against Attila Maerton Ajtai, who is a Roma, on race grounds.
Mr Ajtai had sought help from the Citizens Advice Centre and Garda after his employers had not acted on his complaints of being subjected to severe harassment by two Polish colleagues. He claimed they had subjected him to racial slurs, made Nazi salutes, and spoke of “white power” when he was passing. He was also struck on the back of the neck on one occasion, while he also suspected them of putting soap in his sandwiches.
Mr Ajtai told the tribunal he felt very isolated and became unfit for work due to related stress.
The company said it investigated Mr Ajtai’s complaints, which were fully denied by the two Polish employees. However, it advised both sides to stay out of each other’s way as an interim measure. It claimed it tried to deal with such issues in a “low-key manner”, which is why the company did not initially instigate a formal procedure.
The tribunal concluded that Mr Ajtai was subjected to racial slurs and degrading and humiliating treatment by his two co-workers. It found McDonnell Brothers had taken an informal approach to dealing with his complaints and the firm had no policy for dealing with allegations of harassment.
The tribunal was also satisfied the firm’s managing director had told Mr Ajtai to seek employment elsewhere, if he did not desist from pursuing his complaint of racism.
In a separate case, a Co-Mayo based franchise for Supermacs and Costcutters has been ordered to pay a total of €34,000 to a former Lithuanian employee who was constructively dismissed on race grounds.
The Equality Tribunal heard McHugh’s Costcutter and Supermac in Ballindine, Co Mayo, had transferred Kristina Kukstatie to another branch after she had made a formal complaint to gardaí. Ms Kukstatie said she had felt threatened by a female customer who she claimed had been racially abusive to her on a previous occasion.
The tribunal also awarded €33,000 to Polish cleaner Jolenta Drabik against her employer, Edward Zandi, of Moonlite Cleaning Services in Galway, for discrimination and victimisation on grounds of gender.
In another case, AIB was ordered to pay €5,000 to a transgender woman, Deirdre O’Byrne, after it refused to alter the name on her bank account even though she had legally changed it.
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