Bray’s Old Kona Golf Club ordered to pay worker €25,000 for sexual assault by general manager

Old Kona Golf Club in Ko Wicklow has been ordered to pay an employee €25,000 for sexual harassment at work by its general manager.

The air manager is alleged to have described himself as “horny” and “well-endowed” and commented “isn’t that cool? [her] on his knees?” when the complainant was using office equipment.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard that the club was a “toxic”, “male-dominated workplace” with a “hierarchy of power”.
However, the general manager had described his relationship with the complainant as “good and cordial” and refused to make any comment on “horny women” or “women’s asses”.

Emily Farrell’s complaints under the Employment Equality Act against the trustees of Old Kona Golf Club – John Hennessy, John L. Byrne and Gene Flynn – alleging harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination through harassment upheld in a decision published today by the WRC Was placed.

The trustees denied the allegations.

Ms Farrell’s barrister, Matthew Jolie BL, told the WRC that her client had been subjected to “repeated, regular and ongoing harassment and campaigns of invasion of her personal privacy”, just three months into her employment as of December 2016. was started from

Ms Farrell provided evidence that the General Manager of Old Kona would be a daily presence in her office, questioning her about her personal and personal life and intimate relationships.

She said the behavior was not bothering at first, but she began to feel “very uncomfortable” and began noting events in her phone calendar.

Ms Farrell said the general manager came to her home in February 2017 uninvited and commented on the cars and the people there.

She said that there were “regular unwanted comments on her clothing, physical appearance”. [and] hair” from this man.

He also offered “unsolicited details of his personal life, marital status and intimate behaviour”, she said.

Ms Farrell said the general manager asked if she was using dating apps and questioned her “logistics” about whether she “gets lucky and scores” with kids at home, Ms Farrell said. Told.

The complainant said that when he got the permanent contract in May 2017, the behavior of the general manager “turned worse”.

She said, between incidents, she described herself as “horny” and “well-endowed” and asked her to “set him up” with a friend of hers.

The behavior was bad when coworkers were on vacation and Ms Farrell was left alone with the man in the office, telling the tribunal that one of her tactics was to go to the bathroom to avoid him.

A letter from the complainant’s GP cited as evidence to present with symptoms of anxiety and low mood on three occasions in 2019.

The doctor noted that the complainant accused a manager of “harassing her at work” and calling her unannounced.

An anonymous letter was sent to the golf club in November 2019 alleging that “two girls in the office” were being sexually assaulted, the tribunal was told.

Ms Farrell said she was only shown a “heavily revised” version of the letter and was required to keep working with the general manager.

The tribunal was told that even after the anonymous letter, the manager continued to make sexual remarks to Ms. Farrell.

She said that before the Christmas party in 2019, he asked her if she would “go with a greenkeeper”, she said.

On another occasion, when Ms. Farrell was using a laminator, the general manager remarked to another worker: “Isn’t that great? [her] On his knees?”, WRC heard.

In all, Ms. Farrell reported 23 incidents of harassment and sexual harassment in a formal complaint letter dated December 20, 2019.

A second worker, referred to in the decision as Ms AR, shared an office with Ms Farrell and provided evidence that the work environment at Old Kona was “toxic”.

The adjudicating officer said Ms AR was able to substantiate several of the allegations made by Ms Farrell.

Ms AR said it was a “male-dominated workplace” where there was a “hierarchy of power”.

She said she and Ms Farrell had “endured an unbearable condition for three years to a sober life” and only had the “courage” to make their formal complaint after the anonymous letter.

Eamon Matti Biel, appearing for Old Kona, said it acted “decisively and expeditiously” by launching a thorough investigation by an “independent and experienced” expert.

The club did not become aware of any alleged misconduct prior to the anonymous letter, he said, and had immediately nominated two members of its council to meet with Ms Farrell.

They argued that Ms Farrell had failed to implement her employer’s complaints process and had failed to discharge the burden of proof during an investigation that “fully complied with fair procedures” and “objectively”. sustainable” conclusions.

The club’s bar manager gave evidence that Ms Farrell and the general manager interacted daily and were “like a married couple” – adding that the atmosphere in the office ranged from “conversation” to “you can cut it with a knife”.

She confirmed that Ms Farrell had complained to her about the general manager’s behavior and was “confused” about reporting the complaint – but she did not when he suggested she “could chat” with the general manager. Told.

He said he did not know what sexual harassment meant.

The general manager gave evidence that his relationship with Ms Farrell was “good and cordial” and that “there was nothing in their conversation” leading him to believe it was uncomfortable for her.

He declined to mention “horny women” and made any comment on “women’s asses” and said that other incidents were “never raised as being offensive with them”.

He said that if he had been asked to stop, he would.

In her decision, Adjudicating Officer Marguerite Buckley wrote that the substantiated evidence presented by the complainant was “compelling” and “coherent”, and in combination with the testimony of the bar manager, she came to the conclusion that the complainant’s case was more credible.

The adjudicating officer was satisfied that Ms. Farrell had received unpleasant and objectionable remarks from the General Manager and had asked both to stop and complained to other colleagues, including the Bar Manager, before making a formal complaint.

Ms Buckley said she believed the anonymous letter had given Ms Farrell and witness AR “the courage to bring formal complaints” – adding that she was satisfied that the complainant had established a prima facie case of sexual assault did.

To take advantage of the statutory defense, the employer must demonstrate that it has policies in place to prevent such conduct, Ms Buckley wrote.

However, she found that none of the employees called by the club were familiar with its bullying and harassment policy; that none of them, Ms Farrell, complained that they were “sufficiently trained” to recognize the behavior and pursue the matter, and that the management committee that had the option to complain was not readily identifiable Was.

Ms Buckley also acknowledged criticisms made in the internal investigation, which found that the investigator had “given little importance to the complainant’s account” and should have interviewed more witnesses.

“The comments she had to endure were mid-level such behavior and completely unacceptable in the modern workplace,” Ms Buckley said.

Ms Buckley ordered the club’s trustees to pay Ms Farrell €25,000 in compensation for discriminatory sexual harassment.

However, she rejected the victim’s claim, noting that the settlement terms proposed by the appeals officer were “clumsy”, but Ms Farrell had neither accepted nor pressured her , and remained in employment.