A man who claimed gender discrimination and harassment on the basis that a female hotel employee was frequently present in the hotel’s male changing room when men were naked has been awarded €2,000.

Tom Flanagan of Lahinch, Co Clare, claimed the presence of a female employee in the men’s room of the leisure centre at the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon when men were naked and semi-naked was “totally inappropriate”. He claimed his membership was revoked after he complained.

The cast and crew of Father Ted frequently stayed at Falls Hotel during filming.

“I asked for the situation to stop umpteen times,” Mr Flanagan told the Irish Examiner. “It was very embarrassing, not just for me, but for other men there, too. Since this thing started, I have been inundated with calls from other men telling me about their situation and that they were afraid of their lives to take an action.”

The Falls Hotel had claimed at the Workplace Relations Commission hearing that the complaint was “vexatious”, but the commission rejected the defence.

In its ruling, published yesterday, it said “the complainant has established that he is covered by the relevant discriminatory ground, which is gender”, under the Equal Status Act.

The commission said “the complainant has alleged that at times several men were present in the changing rooms, but he was alone with Miss A on occasion. The complainant stated that this put him in a precarious situation, as he was afraid that he could have been accused of obscene acts. In addition, the complainant was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed by the intrusions by Ms A and there was a palpable sense of discomfort in the changing room.”

Mr Flanagan claimed no woman would be subjected to the same treatment.

The hotel told the commission that on November 29, 2013, Mr Flanagan had approached Ms A and verbally attacked her to the point that “spit was discharged into her face, due to his proximity.” Following that, his membership of the centre was terminated.

It was ruled that “on the balance of probabilities” the incident occurred as set out and that it would have been “preferable if the complainant raised his complaint with management prior to talking to Ms A, as this resulted in the altercation”. On that basis, Mr Flanagan’s claim of victimisation in the withdrawal of his membership was not granted.

However, the commission upheld his complaint of harassment and agreed the presence of Ms A was “offensive and humiliating”. He was awarded €2,000 on the basis of gender discrimination.

In a statement issued through its solicitor, the hotel said it was extremely disappointed at the decision.

“As an extremely successful business, we feel we always strive, through our staff, to put the needs of our customers first and foremost and will continue to do so. We are currently, carefully, considering our position with our legal advisors.”


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