Fire service ordered to pay €5,000 to former employee over racist note

LIMERICK City Fire Service has been ordered to pay €5,000 to a former English employee who found an anonymous racist note in his locker advising him to quit his job.

In September 2006, Martin Mannering, a native of Middlesbrough, found the note in his locker which read: “This is Limerick, Ireland not Middlesboro, England. Take (named employee’s) advice.”

The named employee was a firefighter with Limerick fire brigade who left the brigade to transfer to the Dublin Fire Service. The Equality Tribunal, which dealt with a complaint from Mr Mannering, said the note clearly implied Mr Mannering should leave the Limerick service too. He had been an employee of the service since 2001.

Mr Mannering went to his union representative after he received the note that could only have come from within the fire station and, subsequently, met with a member of the HR department.

According to Mr Mannering, the HR staff member was “shocked and disgusted” when he learned what had happened.

On October 11, 2006, Mr Mannering and the union rep met with the chief fire officer. The chief fire officer said in evidence that he outlined the three ways of proceeding to Mr Mannering, which according to him were mediation, an investigation, or a transfer.

However, the equality officer said Limerick City Council’s own Dignity at Work policy does not propose a transfer as a solution to a complaint of harassment and that even though Mr Mannering himself had sought a transfer it could not be considered “an adequate response” to his complaint.

In defence of his failure to initiate an investigation into Mr Mannering’s complaint, the chief fire officer said this would have required a second meeting with Mr Mannering and a request from him for an investigation.

However, Mr Mannering had already been given assurances by HR that the chief fire officer would investigate the matter.

The equality officer said under the circumstances, he found the chief fire officer’s failure to insist on an investigation “in contravention of the very clear obligations which [Limerick City Council’s] anti-harassment policy places on staff members of his level of seniority”.

The equality officer found the council had discriminated against Mr Mannering “by not taking reasonable and practicable steps to prevent his harassment on ground of race”.

To compensate him for the harassment he endured, Mr Mannering was awarded €5,000.

When asked by the Irish Examiner if they intended to appeal the award or to explain why Mr Mannering’s complaint was not investigated, a spokesman for the council’s fire service said yesterday it was “not policy to comment on individual employee situations”.


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