Workplace Solicitor News
Posted: September 20th, 2021
At the Labour Court former barista Shauna Quilty has been awarded €20,000 compensation for sexual harassment at work, to be paid by coffee chain MBCC Foods, trading as Costa Coffee.
The case was before the Labour Court as Ms Quilty was appealing the level of the €3,500 award that had previously been awarded by a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer as a result of the manager’s behaviour being classified as in the ‘less serious’.
When she was aged 19, Ms Quilty was working as a barista in a Costa Coffee store in Belgard in Dublin. She submitted a formal complaint against her manager and sought an official investigation. However, she resigned before the investigation delivered a ruling and outcome.
She made the formal complaint due to the events surrounding an office Christmas Party on December 7 2019. She informed the court that, prior to the party the staff had been conversing in a Facebook Messenger group chat and her manager asked where she was before sharing a picture of himself in his boxer shorts and asked ‘what about Shauna?’ She did not reply to this and when asked by a colleague who the Santa panties were for, the manager answered ‘who takes them wins the prize’.
Ms Quilty went on to describe how subsequently, on December 9, the same manager posted a video on the group chat of a male barista drawing male genitalia on a flat white with the message “who does this, I’ll promote him to barista maestro straight away with no project” and that “we shall start practising from tomorrow”.
At the time of these incidents Ms Quilty was earning the minimum wage for an average of 30 hours every week. Her solicitor, Mr Richard Grogan, informed that court that this case will carry significant implications for employers after the court ordered that a comprehensive sexual harassment policy is created.
He added that the shop manager clearly had no awareness of sexual harassment and the initial reaction of the employer was to consider moving the complainant to another location. Teh employed had admitted that the actions of the manager could be regarded as falling within the definition of sexual harassment and, for that, they (the employer) bore a level of responsibility.
In defence the employer stated that the area manager met with the complainant in January last year where the issue was discussed in detail. However, the employer said these matters were not brought to its attention until an email on January 21 last year and asked why there had been a delay of six weeks for the incidents to be reported. Ms Quilty said the delay in raising a complaint about the posts was due to embarrassment. She said she resigned following consultation with her mother and Mr Grogan.
In the meanwhile the manager was put on suspension and a hearing was arranged. The employer added that Ms Quilty had resigned in February last year and said that she would be withdrawing her complaints. Following this Costa Coffee took the decision to demote the manager in question and move him to an alternative location.
Additionally, an external company was contracted to conduct up to date training for all managers on dignity and respect in the workplace. The employer stated that the offensive content was not persistent and was shared within a group chat of colleagues, including male colleagues, and was not addressed specifically to Ms Quilty.
Deputy chairman of the Labour Court Tom Geraghty ruled that, while the behaviour may not be in the same category as physical assault, it is considerably more than harmless banter. He said: “What can be said in the instant case is that the complainant has a right to go to work without being subjected to unwanted pictures of her manager in his underwear or childish and offensive representations of male genitalia.”
Additionally he said that he was ‘quite shocked’ that such a large employer did not have a clearly set out policy on sexual harassment in place when the incident occurred. The Court ordered the employer to develop a workplace anti-harassment and sexual harassment policy, an anti bullying policy and social media policy.
Posted: June 19th, 2021
Injury compensation of €25,000 has been awarded to a building site foreman who was injured in an accident where after a shampoo dispenser crushed one of his big toes at a well known luxury Dublin hotel.
Barrister Conor Kearney, for Gallagher, told the court Mr Gallagher lives in Cashel, Achill Island, Co Mayo, and travels up and down to his work in Dublin.
Judge McCourt told those present in the courtroom that “Although he has been greatly discommoded by his injury he hasn’t made a song and dance about it and is now doing a more sedentary job within the building trade”.
Appearing on behalf of his client alongside Tiernan Solicitors, Mr Kearney informed the Judge that Mr Gallagher had been using the gym in the hotel at Grand Canal Quay, Dublin, on March 9, 2017 when the accident took place.
As he was reviewing damages in relation to the accident in question, Judge McCourt said medical reports produced for the legal action indicated that Mr Gallagher had, unbeknownst to himself, been suffering with undetected arthritis in his right big toe before the accident took place. The judge said Mr Gallagher’s medical advisers believed it may be necessary for him to have fusion procedure to assist with the pain in his toe.
However, the arthritis in question had been made worse in the accident involving the shampoo dispenser which was classified as a crush injury. Liability in the legal action was admitted by the legal representatives for the Marker Hotel.
Posted: March 24th, 2021
A High Court compensation action has been settled for €50,000 in favour of an eight-year-old boy who was injured in a accident that occurred when when the scooter he was riding struck a piece of timber that was sticking out from the garden wall of a house.
iam David Hanson hit what was though to be a kitchen worktop left by labourer on a garden wall and sticking out onto the footpath he was travelling along in Westbrook Heights in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, on July 14, 2016.
Taking the legal action via his mother, Deborah Manning, of Moylaragh Crescent, Balbriggan against Jamie Tiernan and Helen McCusker, both with addresses at Westbrook Heights, kitchen installershit what was believed to be a kitchen worktop left by workman on a garden wall and protruding onto the footpath manufacturers Tierney Kitchens Retail, of Stephenstown Business Park, Balbriggan, the East Coast Kitchen Factory and Ion Tomoiaga, both who reside at KCR Business Estate, Kimmage, Co Dublin.
Representing Liam in court, Conor Halpin Senior Counsel informed the Court that the young boy did not spot the wood until the last second. Due to this he suffered cut and lacerations to his face. He was administered with stitches which resulting in the presence of some scarring in the area of his forehead.
Presiding Judge Justice Deirdre Murphy was informed that an offer of €50,000 had been made to settle the case. The defendants did not accept liability and had also claimed that there was some contributory negligence to consider in the legal action.
Justice Murphy was informed that the boy suffered no psychological issue in relation to the scarring the he sustained. They added that the boy was a “very competent young man”. His mother told the court she was happy to accept the personal injury compensation offer.
Justice Murphy, who viewed the scarring on the boy via video link, said the resolution of the scars was significant. She approved the €50,000 offer and said it was a very good one for the young boy.
Posted: November 1st, 2020
Store supervisor Joann Twomey has been awarded €189,000 damages by the High Court after a workplace accident with her with scar on her leg that she claimed looked like a “shark bite”.
Ms Twomey (52) from Patrick’s Hill, Cork, took the legal action against Jeral Ltd trading as Daybreak, Thomas Davis Street, Blackpool, Cork, and her employers Jeremy and Alice Buckley due to the injuries she sustained in the accident that took place on April 27, 2015.
The accident occured when a steel girder dropped onto the rear of her leg, inflicting her with a 25cm-long laceration to her right calf. M,s Twomey informed the court that she believed there to be a failure to secure the iron bar properly and also that it was not being stored in an adequately safe fashion. She also alleged there the owners of the business had not provided her with a safe place of work.
Judge Justice Charles Meenan was advised that Ms Twomey was taken to Cork University Hospital for medical treatment following the accident. She underwent an operation to suture her leg a few days after the incident. However, following her discharge from hospital she suffered an infection to the wound and was readmitted. Some time later she also underwent a skin graft procedure to clean the scarring the remained.
As liability was admitted in the legal action it was only before court for a final assessment of damages.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan informed the court that he believed Ms Twomey to be an honest and truthful witness and saw no indication that she was attempting to exaggerate her injuries and suffering in any way. Of Ms Twomey’s injuries he said that the scar on the woman’s right calf said it was clearly visible from a distance. However he added that: “On viewing at an angle, there is a clear indent though I do not think it is of the order of a shark bite”.
He added that the woman no longer wears skirts and as a result of the pain does not wear high heels while that the calf scar causes her particular upset and embarrassment when she goes swimming. Justice Meenan said that does not believe that the pain is an invention by Ms Twomey.
he went on to say that she (Ms Twomey) suffers with ongoing sharp pain around the scar tissue shooting or radiating down to her ankle. This has affected her working life and she now has to work reduced hours . He was satisfied that she had established a basis for the court to award compensation for future loss of earnings. It was also taken into account that she has enrolled in a number of post-school that indicate her willingness to ‘remain in employment and acquire new skills’.
In taking all of these factors into account, along with the ongoing consequences of the measures taken to halt the spread of Covid-19 as regards the retail sector, a 40% reduction on the future-loss-of-earnings claim was deemed appropriate, equating to €69,000. In addition to this there was an award of €80,000 damages and special damages, bringing the total to €189,409.
Posted: September 22nd, 2020
A woman who was previously employed, on a contract basis, to moderate content on the YouTube video sharing service, has submitted a class action lawsuit in California claiming that the company is in breach of the State’s legislation by failing to put in place a safe working environment and doing its utmost to protect the mental health of content moderators
The woman, who has not been identified in the filing, detailed how the duties involved in the role resulted in her experiencing “severe psychological trauma including depression and symptoms associated with anxiety and PTSD.”
She claims that that YouTube failed to “implement the workplace safety standards it helped create” and required moderators “to work under conditions it knows cause and exacerbate psychological trauma.”
She held the position with after being appointed to the role by staffing agency Collabera. The duration of her employment was from January 2018 to August 2019. There was no response from YouTube and Collabera when they were asked to common on the allegations included in the class action filing.
The ex-moderator said YouTube made little of the dangers involved int he role during initiation and orientation for the position. Content Moderators who voices worry in relation to the dangers of the position were kept silence via the use of non-disclosure agreements. Prospective employees are informed, prior beginning the job, that they “might be required to review graphic content” that “can have negative mental health impacts.”
It is being alleged that YouTube time and time again refused, when asked, to implement the use of certain features that would have alleviated the stressful associated with the moderator role.
In relation to the provision of “wellness coaches”, people supposedly provided by YouTube to allow for a measure of psychological support it was claimed that they are not always available and are not properly qualified for the position they are holding. Staff are actually informed that they could “not receive any on-site medical care because Wellness Coaches are not medical doctors and cannot diagnose or treat mental health disorders”. She claims that one such coach advised her, in 2018, to “take illegal drugs” to help with the stress.
The class action lawsuit claims that YouTube are to blame for the traumatic experiences and suffering of the YouTube content moderators as the manner of the material that they must review is “abnormally dangerous” and that the video sharing platform is has been engaging in negligent behavior and suppyling “unsafe equipment” for staff to deal with the role.
Posted: August 20th, 2020
A woman who experienced a fall while crossing the garage forecourt holding some groceries has been awarded €71,770 personal injury compensation at the High Court.
The woman, Mary Delaney from Kilkenny, broke her two front teeth and fractured her ankle in the accident that occurred when she stubbed her toe on a lip of tarmacadam and fell to the ground.
Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon delivered a ruling that the accident would not have taken place but for inadequate workmanship. It was stated that the use of an excessive depth of material in a patched area had led to an uneven surface with a 14 millimetre height difference that represented a tripping hazard to customers.
The compensation action was submitted against Circle K Ireland Energy Group Ltd, formerly Topaz in relation to the pain and suffering that she sustained in the incident that took place on May 20, 2017.
Ms Delaney informed the court that she was wearing a pair of shoes that had black laces when the fall occurred. The Judge was advised that Ms Delaney’s face was ‘black and blue’ after the fall and she could only consume liquids through a straw for a period of six months due to the extent of her injuries. As a result of the ankle injury she lacks complete freedom of movement and is stricken with a lack of movement. For the broken teeth she had to attend for orthodontic treatment on nine separate occasions to have her ailments addressed.
Circle K, the defendant in the court case, counter claimed that the differed in the gradient of the forecourt was actually a gradual rise and not ‘lipped’ as had been alleged. The Judge said that Ms Delaney came across as a credible witness and a ‘a reasonable person’ who did not seek to make more of the injuries in any manner.
Judge O’Hanlon said: “It is reasonably foreseeable that a person such as Ms Delaney would suffer such an accident in these circumstances as there was a lack of reasonable care in the reinstatement of the pavement”.
Accepting that this was “an acrimonious case”, Ms Justice O’Hanlon granted Circle K’s application for a stay in the event of an appeal as long as €35,000 compensation and legal expensesare paid out to Ms Delaney immediately.
Posted: July 31st, 2020
At the High Court a woman who claims she has become an invalid after allegedly slipping on a muffin or a piece of cake in a Londis store has taken a legal action seeking compensation.
Due to the accident that occurred in 2012, Olivia Harte Lynch “has been rendered an invalid” according to her legal team. This is due to the fact that her legs went from under her and she landed on her back on the floor of a Londis store.
Olivia Harte Lynch, 46, Skreeney, Manorhamiliton, Co Leitrim has taken the legal action for compensation against JNF McGoldrick Ltd trading as McGoldrick’s Londis, Main Street, Dromahair, Co Leitrim due to the accident that occurred on August 23, 2012. It is alleged that there was a failure to remove the cake or muffin from the floor so as to ensure it would not represent a trap or a source of danger. It is also being claimed there was a failure to ensure the floor was cleaned and an alleged failure to erect a warning sign or to cordon off the area until it was rendered safe for customers.
Londis denies the claims or that Ms Harte Lynch fell due to any alleged negligence. Peter Bland SC said it is admitted that Ms Harte Lynch fell in the Londis supermarket. The court heard that what is at issue in the case is whether the fall was due to alleged negligence.
Jonathan Kilfeather SC for Londis informed the court that there is no argument that Ms Harte Lynch slipped and fell but the issue is whether the fall was due to any alleged negligence. Counsel told the court there was no allegation that the fall “was staged” and he said it was not the way the defendants were approaching the case. There is alot of medical testimony on both sides, Counsel said, which was “diametrically opposed.” He informed the Judge that there is also an issue in relation to the nature of the injuries suffered and the sequelae.
Mr Kilfeather said the defendants were anxious the case to go ahead.
Adjourning the matter, Mr Justice Barton said he preferred to take “so contentious a hearing” in one sitting and he will inform the court how the case should proceed on Wednesday. he said that could take up tp two weeks and may not finish before the end of the court term at the end of July.
Posted: June 25th, 2020
On Wednesday German drugs and pesticides producer Bayer, agreed to settle thousands of US-based legal actions taken in connection with users of weedkiller RoundUp developing cancer, for $10.9bn.
This move comes follow year-long extensive talks.
The legal action submitted claimed that RoundUp caused the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers in some users. Bayer has always dismissed allegations that RoundUp or its active ingredient glyphosate can lead to the development of cancer. This dismissal was based on numerous independent studies showing that the weedkiller is safe for human use.
When it purchased Monsanto in 2018, Bayer took over responsibility for the claims. This settlement does not include three cases that have already gone to trial. Shareholders in the group gave their approval to how the claims were being handled in April.
Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann released a statement which said: “The Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end. It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multiyear litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business. The decision to resolve the Roundup litigation enables us to focus fully on the critical supply of healthcare and food. It will also return the conversation about the safety and utility of glyphosate-based herbicides to the scientific and regulatory arena and to the full body of science.”
A statement was also released by settlement mediator Ken Feinberg confirming some 25,000 claims remain unsettled. He said: “Bayer wisely decided to settle the litigation rather than roll the dice in American court.”
He added: “I predict all the remaining cases will settle within a few months. People are going to want their share of this settlement.”
$5bn of the settlement must be paid this year and the same figure is due to be transferred to claimants during 2021.
Bayer is believed to be funding the settlement thanks to the the company’s existing free cash flow and the proceeds of the recent sale of its Animal Health portfolio. There were almost 125,000 filed and unfiled claims. The agreed settlement makes up approximately 75% of the claims linked to RoundUp.
Posted: April 15th, 2020
The Workplace Relations Commission has issued a directive for a publican, retailer and post office operator to pay his ex-wife €9,500 following what was ruled her unfair dismissal from the family company that she had been employed by during their marriage.
The woman was let go from her position in the family company in June 2019 after an investigation into her ‘top-up’ withdrawals of €1,000 at a time from the business to the couple’s personal joint bank account.
The woman, who was also a director of the company, initiated a wrongful dismissals claim with the Workplace Relations Commission as a result of this due to the nature of her dismissal from her position in the business.
Ms McElduff informed the WRC hearing that the manner of her termination from her role had fallen “far short of the requirements of any fair disciplinary procedure” and added that she was not given any indication prior to her sacking that she may be dismissed.
The hearing was informed that an independent investigator returned findings that indicated, from February 5, 2018, and February 14, 2019, €25,160 was transferred online to the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife in 19 different transactions.
Along with this, from August 31, 2017, and November 30, 2018, a total of €30,250 in 29 different money transfers transactions was also lodged into the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife as cash lodgements. The husband said he had no management over the joint account.
The woman was informed, in a letter of dismissal that this was “totally unacceptable” behaviour. The complainant informed the WRC adjudicator the hearing that she had been advised by an accountant in the company’s accountancy practice that she could top up her wages with withdrawals of €1,000. She went on to say that she was certain that she had transferred the money in a transparent fashion.
The married couple ended their relationship up during September 2017 and the woman has begun judicial separation proceedings.
WRC adjudication officer Anne McElduff ruled the woman’s claim was well based.
Posted: January 6th, 2020
€20,000 Sexual Harassment Compensation has been awarded to a female deli worker who was kissed on the neck against her will and pinched by a male colleague.
Following a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing the supermarket has been ordered to pay the worker in question €20,000 for distress suffered, and the impact of discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Adjudication Officer Gaye Cunningham said that she found the supermarket. She said that “failed to put appropriate measures in place to stop this harassment and sexual harassment from occurring or to reverse its effects. I am satisfied that these incidents were extremely serious in nature in terms of the impact and effect they had on her personally and her working environment.” In addition to this she ordered that all those within the supermarket group with staff management duties must undergo appropriate training in its policies on harassment, bullying and sexual harassment.
After taking up the position of deli worker in May 2018, the employee told the tribunal that verbal and physical sexual harassment by a male colleague began approximately one month later. The abuse included inappropriate sexual comments about young girls who came into the shop. She claimed that when he was asked to stop, as they were clearly young school girls, he stated that they looked old enough to him.
The complainant gave examples of times where she felt personally endangered. This included when the alleged perpetrator pinned her against or near a fridge and made lewd and sexually suggestive comments to her. She told the tribunal that a manager witnessed some of the behaviour of the alleged perpetrator and when asked to take action, the manager laughed and told the man to stop as the deli worker was from Limerick and she would stab him.
The complainant told the WRC tribunal that she was the focus of almost daily sexual assault or harassment. The woman submitted an official complaint and a second female employee also made an allegation that the man touched her inappropriately. Due to this man was moved to work in the storeroom. However, after a few days there, he went absent due to illness.
At the WRC the deli manager admitted to telling the alleged perpetrator to stop as the complainant was from Limerick and could stab him. However, he said that he thought of this as a joke and did not think the complainant was offended by this.
The store owner said that he put the allegations to the male deli worker in question and he denied them. He (the owner) said that the investigation into the complaints could not be concluded as the former male deli worker had since left the country.
Ms Cunningham ruled that the supermarket not finishing its investigation to be the most egregious flaw in the whole incident.