A nursing home has been ordered to pay €150,000 to three care workers who were sexually harassed by an alcohol-fuelled 93-year-old male resident.
All three care assistants were dismissed following a flashpoint involving the pub-going resident on January 7, 2018 and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered that the nursing home pay each care worker €50,000 compensation.
The €50,000 is made up of €30,000 for the distress caused by the sexual harassment and €20,000 for the victimisation and penalisation by the nursing home against the three concerning their dismissals.
In her findings, WRC adjudication officer, Marguerite Buckley said she was satisfied that the care workers were subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace by the resident.
She said: “This went beyond tactile touching, banter or involuntary behaviour due to dementia. I accept the evidence that this behaviour was alcohol-fuelled.” Ms Buckley said that furthermore, she was satisfied that the nursing home “failed to put appropriate measures in place to stop this sexual harassment from occurring or to reverse its effects.”
Ms Buckley noted that a care-home case report on the 93-year-old “set out that the resident went to the pub most days and drank alcohol “which may contribute to behavioural issues”.
Ms Buckley said that along with the evidence of three care workers providing evidence of sexual harassment by the resident, three colleagues also provided “clear and compelling” evidence of the resident’s behaviour.
Two of the three colleagues still work at the nursing home — with one of the three alleging that the man “groped her breasts”, “kissed her arms” and “mauled her” while a second gave evidence that the resident grabbed her breast, licked her arm and pulled her onto him.
The care worker explained at the hearing that the man’s behaviour was so bad “young carers would not go into him” to attend to him.
A third care worker described the man as being “very abusive” and described how he engaged in unwelcome behaviour such as “kissing her arm” and lewd comments about her having seven children.
In the case, the care workers, who lodged the claims with the WRC, alleged that the male resident, who is blind in one eye and requires the use of a wheelchair, sexually harassed them over a period of time.
The harassment consisted of physical conduct of a sexual nature including touching their breasts and foul language.
One care assistant stated that the man said to her that “she had a fine pair of breasts”.
The workers’ case was that the resident’s behaviour had the effect of violating their dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive workplace to work in.
One of the care workers stated that the resident went to the local pub six days a week and always kept alcohol in the locker beside his bed.
The nursing home told the WRC that the man suffers from dementia while the resident denied the sexual harassment of the three.
The care home also said the man was largely bed-bound and spent only about two hours a day sitting in his wheelchair. He was incontinent and suffered from constipation and required assistance with feeding.
A medical cert was provided to the WRC to state that the man was frail and medically unfit to attend the hearing held over three days.
Concerning the January 7, 2018 incident, one of the care workers said that she heard the resident “kicking off, cursing to his care staff” as they were attempting to provide care to him.
She stated that she went into his room and noted that he had been drinking alcohol.
She alleged that the resident told her that she was “no f**king better than these two b*tches”.
One of the other care workers said that the man grabbed her at the crotch ‘and told her to f**k off’.
The man threw a glass across his room and hit his locker.
A clinical nurse manager was called to the room by the care workers but, instead of offering assistance to the three, made a complaint to the director of nursing concerning them.
The three were dismissed in December 2018 after an investigation concluded that the three had created a situation which resulted in the maltreatment of a resident.
The three stated that they had raised the allegations of sexual harassment with management on a continuing basis but no action was taken to prevent the ongoing issues and protect them from this behaviour.
The care home denied that management permitted the resident to have unlimited access to alcohol, and explained that the pub where the resident attended permanently closed in April 2019.
The care home also denied that any allegations of sexual harassment were made by the complainant or her co-workers prior to January 7, 2018.