Shop Assistant Injury Solicitor
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: March 12th, 2019
A shop worker has been awarded in excess of €24,000 retail outlet compensation against her employer after tripping over the open flap of a clothes box the store that she was employed in.
Aisling Smith, with an address at Woodlawn Way, Santry, Dublin 17 was informed by Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke that she had not been maintaining an adequate look-out in the Vera Moda store and, due to contributory negligence, reduced her personal injury compensation award to just over €19,000.
Ms Smiths legal representative, Barrister John Nolan appearing with Kent Carty Solicitors, advised the court Ms Smith had hurt her shoulders and back in the fall that happened in the store during November 2015. His client argue that the storeroom at the Vera Moda shop in the Pavilion Shopping Centre, Swords, had been cluttered with boxes. Ms Smith (28) said she had been bringing stock from a store room when her knee caught on the flap of a box, causing her to fall heavily. She had experienced injuries to her neck and both shoulders and her back and had a soft tissue injury to her wrist after having tried to break her fall with her hands.
Judge Groarke awarded Ms Smith a total of €22,500 damages but cut the personal injury compensation award to €19,125 due to what he said was contributory negligence on her part. He said she had been employed at the store for long enough that she should have been conscious of keeping a proper look-out and been more careful in relation to her own safety.
He said that testimony provided by forensic engineer Barry Tennyson, who had conducted out an inspection of the stock room, indicated that the defendant had put serious effort into tidying up the store before the joint engineering inspection. Judge Groarke said the stock room had been kept in a rather haphazard way.
Ms Smith informed told the court that a stock box had been pulled out from a position against the wall and was left with one of its flaps lying open. A retail outlet compensation award of €2,000 for loss of earnings was included in her final compensation award.
Posted: September 7th, 2018
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld an unfair dismissal claim of a waitress who was on the spot due to a customer posting a negative comment on TripAdvisor complaining that “the red-haired waitress was abrupt”. The restaurant has been ordered to pay her €2,000 compensation.
The restaurant manager advised the WRC that he concurred with the waitress’s account regarding the dismissal and added that he had received an additional two complaints from customers and a further 20 complaints from other employees. He also accepted that he did not advise the waitress of these other complaints when he he advising he that her position of employment was terminated.
WRC Adjudication Officer Máire Mulcahy issued a ruling which stated that the use of the TripAdvisor review and the 20 alleged complaints “is not far short of mob rule in the workplace” when the waitress was not given the chance to examine the authenticity of them.
The ruling said that the “vox-pop” type comment on TripAdvisor that “the waitress with the red hair was abrupt” which the restaurant used as the basis to sack her “is very far removed” from the concept of “substantial grounds” to justify a dismissal as required by the Unfair Dismissal Act. Ms Mulcahy added that the waitress’s description of how her dismissal occurred is not being argued.
She said said: “There was no disciplinary procedure in the workplace. There was no process. No advance notice, no examination of the alleged complaints, no opportunity to be accompanied at the meeting which resulted in her dismissal, or right of appeal was afforded to the complainant.”
Ms Mulcahy stated that the waitress was denied a proper judicial process regarding her sacking.
The defendant advised the WRC, in her testimony that she feels that the real reason she was sacked was due to the support she gave to the manager’s partner in the break-up of their relationship.
The final WRC report on the case said that the restaurant boss has said sorry to the waitress for his actions.
Posted: July 4th, 2018
A retailer has been ordered to pay a shop assistant €7,000 in unfair dismissal compensation after she was sacked for selling a bottle of beer to a customer on Good Friday of 2017.
the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that she was unfairly dismissed and that her complaint for unfair dismissal ‘is well founded’. The woman said that she made an honest mistake in selling the bottle of beer on April 14th 2017 but her bosses terminated her employment for gross misconduct. The retailer countered that it could have been in significant trouble for the sale of alcohol on a prohibited day, including a possible temporary closure order being applied to the premises.
The woman told the WRC hearing that she believed that there were no reasonable grounds for her termination. She arguedthat it was not fair as her employer had not issued a reminder to staff not to sell alcohol on the day and that the effort to cordon off the alcohol was obviously insufficient to prevent customers who wanted to purchase alcohol.
Additionally she pointed out that the cash tills were not set up to prevent the sale like it does on other times when this was the case.
The hearing was told that the woman felt that the sanction of dismissal for selling a bottle of beer was completely disproportionate. She disputed that she knowingly sold the bottle of beer to the customer. Furthermore, she stated that her former employer did not adhere with standard procedures in dismissing her from her position.
The retailer advised the hearing that the store manager became aware that there had been a sale of beer on Good Friday and having looked over the CCTV was able to see that the sales assistant was responsible for the sale.
In his findings, WRC Adjudication Officer, James Kelly stated that the worker should have been more careful.
He said: “The sale of one bottle of beer appears minor in isolation however, the possibility of the consequences on the business, with the possible temporary closure should it have been reported and prosecuted are significant. Accordingly, I find that the actions of the respondent were within the range of reasonable responses open to it and that substantial grounds did exist to justify the complainant’s dismissal.”
Posted: March 18th, 2016
A judge in the High Court of Dublin have ruled that the retailer were negligent in a claim made after an employee was injured by falling down a flight of stairs.
Jean O’Reilly, the Wexford employee who filed that claim, was working at the checkouts in her local branch of the retailer in Redmond Square when the accident occurred. On the 9th December 2011, as she was reading notices for staff members, she fell down a flight of stairs that connected the locker room and the ground floor.
An ambulance brought Jean from the shop to the hospital, where she received treatment for soft tissue damage to her head and neck. Jean then wore a brace around her neck for six weeks after the accident, and attended a course of physiotherapy to help her wounds heal. During this period Jean was unable to return to work.
Jean sought legal counsel for her workplace accident, and subsequently made a claim for compensation against her employer, Dunnes Stores. In the claim, she said that the noticeboard for staff was placed too close to the top of the stairs, and as such posed a danger. Additionally, she alleges that had there been a handrail on either side of the stairs her accident could have been prevented.
However, Dunnes Stores disputed the claim for compensation, and when asked by the Injuries Board for consent to carry out an assessment, they denied. Jean was then given permission to follow her claim for workplace compensation through the courts, where it was heard earlier this month by Mr Justice Raymond Fullam.
After hearing all the evidence, Judge Fullam determined that Dunnes Stores was guilty of two counts of negligence. The first concerned the dangerous placement of the noticeboard at the top of the stairs, and the second was because of the lack of handrails on the stairs where Jean fell. As such, he found in Jean’s favour.
The judge awarded Jean a €81,500 settlement of compensation for her work accident claim. This consisted of a €65,000 settlement for the pain and loss of amenity she suffered because of the accident, and a €16,500 special damages compensation settlement for the loss of income after her accident.
Posted: June 24th, 2015
The High Court of Dublin have increased the value of a five-figure settlement awarded to an employee of Dunnes Stores by the Circuit Court.
Anthony Fitzsimons, aged sweaty-five from Finglas in Co. Dublin, was working at the Charlestown Shopping Centre branch of Dunnes Stores when the accident occurred. On the 6th June 2011, Anthony was attempting to lift a stack of crates when the structure fell and crushed his foot.
As a result of the work accident, Anthony was out of work for three and a half months whilst he recovered. During this time, he sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for work injury compensation against the retailer. In the claim, he alleged that the stacked crates posed a risk to employees asked to lift them, as only a few millimetres around the rim were available to grip.
Dunnes Stores refutes any liability for Anthony’s injuries and did not allow the Injuries Board to conduct an investigation into the incident. As a result, Anthony was authorised by the board to pursue his claim through the courts.
The case proceeded to the Circuit Court, where Anthony was awarded a total of €8,035 in compensation. This was after the judge assigned Anthony a fifty percent contributory negligence, ruling that the accident could have been predicted and, as such, prevented.
However, the settlement of compensation was disputed by Dunnes Stores, who then appealed. The case proceeded to the High Court, overseen by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns. The judge upheld the verdict of the Circuit Court, but added that he believed that he believed Anthony should have received more information from his employers concerning the maximum number of crates that would have been safe to lift in one go.
As such, the compensation settlement awarded by the court was increased to €11,070. Judge Kearns justified this by saying that, due to the “nasty” nature of the accident and resulting injury, he believed Anthony was entitled to more compensation.
Posted: April 3rd, 2015
The Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 has revealed a substantial increase in the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements.
Although the Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 indicated a general stabilisation in the number of workplace injury claims, the average value of workplace injury settlements increased by almost 12% from €28,886 in 2013 to €32,134 in 2014.
One exceptional employer liability claim – which resulted in an assessment of €972,898 – was partially responsible for increasing the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements, which over the course of the year totalled €20.1 million.
The Injuries Board figures do not account for any workplace injury compensation settlements that were resolved by negotiation prior to the Injuries Board completing its assessment, or any workplace injury claims in which liability was contested and the claim had to be resolved in court.
31,576 applications for assessment were received by the Injuries Board last year (including motor liability and public liability claims) and, after the Injuries Board had completed its assessments, 12,420 settlements were accepted (39%).
The acceptance rate is significantly higher than the previous year due to a large volume of applications being received towards the end of 2013 which were only resolved last year. Nonetheless, Patricia Byron – the Chief Executive of the Injuries Board was satisfied with the performance of her organisation over 2014. She said:
“While the volume of new claims stabilized last year, the increase in the number of awards made by the Board is a clear indication that more respondents, typically insurers, are opting to engage with our low cost claims resolution service and recognize the real value of avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation where uncontested claims are concerned”.
Ms Byron continued: “2014 was an important year for us as we marked a decade in operation. As a result of our journey, personal injury compensation is now delivered in 7 months and at a processing cost of 6.7%, compared to almost 3 years and a cost of 58% for litigated claims. With over €1 billion in savings delivered to date and a ten year track record behind us, the benefits of non-adversarial claims resolution are unequivocal.”
Posted: February 1st, 2015
According to a press release from the Injuries Board, slips, trips and falls are still the leading causes of workplace injury claims in Ireland.
Slips, trips and falls accounted for 30.8% of workplace injury claims in 2013 according to the Injuries Board, who produced the figures to compliment the news that the volume of claims for workplace injury compensation had increased by 5% from 2012 and that the accepted assessments of those claims rose by almost 10% to £24 million.
Compensation settlements for falls from a height featured in three of the top ten awards of workplace injury compensation, although the vast majority of awards were under €38,000. The highest award was made to an employee who suffered life-changing injuries when they became trapped in a machine. The plaintiff was awarded €432,000.
Other leading causes of workplace injury claims were:
- Struck by an object/falling object – 13.4%
- Unsafe system of work – 7.9%
- Lifting/manual handling accidents – 7.7%
- Cuts and lacerations from sharp objects 4.1%
Commenting on the year-on-year increase in workplace injury claims, Patricia Byron – CEO of the Injuries Board – said: “From a peak rate of unemployment in 2012, increasing numbers of workers are re-joining the workforce. Perhaps reflective of this, our data shows a year on year increase in the number of awards made as a result of accidents in the workplace. As the economy starts to grow again, and as businesses around the country begin to expand, it is important that a renewed focus on health and safety is cultivated.”
Ms. Byron continued “The onus is on us all – business owners, sole traders, and employees to promote and adhere to the highest levels of health and safety compliance.. Those driving for a living, or workers commuting long distances, should heed the advice of agencies such as the Road Safety Authority. As the economy grows, the health and well-being of workers needs to be at the fore to mitigate the social and economic cost of accidents in the workplace.”
Posted: June 11th, 2014
A claim for a slip and fall in Dunnes Stores restaurant has been resolved in the High Court after a judge found Dunnes Stores liable for an injury to an employee.
On 14th July 2011, Dorota Michalowska (29) had been clearing tables in the Dunnes Store restaurant in Clonmel, County Tipperary, and was pushing a trolley full of dirty crockery back to the kitchen area when she slipped on a frozen chip that had been left on the floor and fell heavily – badly injuring her knee as she landed.
Dorota´s knee immediately started to swell, and she sought medical attention for a serious soft tissue injury, which ultimately left her incapacitated for six months and unable to work for thirty-five weeks. After recovering from her injury, Dorota contacted a solicitor and made an injury compensation claim for a slip and fall in Dunnes Stores restaurant against her employers.
The Dunnes Store in Clonmel denied its liability for Dorota´s knee injury on the grounds that Dorota had been working on food production on the day of her accident, and if frozen chips had fallen onto the restaurant floor prior to the time of her accident, it was most likely that Dorota had dropped them herself – thus making her the author of her own misfortune.
Dorota´s claim for a slip and fall in Dunnes Store restaurant proceeded to the High Court, where it was heard by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. After hearing evidence from legal representatives of both parties, Judge Irvine ruled in favour of Dorota with the reasoning that, had Dorota dropped the frozen chips herself – and then spent time clearing crockery from the restaurant tables – the chips would have defrosted by the time Dorota slipped on them and fell.
As there were two other restaurant assistants helping with food preparation at the time of Dorota´s accident, it was more than likely “on the balance of probabilities” that one of Dorota´s colleagues had dropped the chips and either not seen the hazard or neglected to pick them up because of the pressure of work. Consequently the judge decided, Dunnes Stores were liable for Dorota´s injuries through the negligence of their staff.
Judge Irvine commented that Dorota would likely suffer from arthritis in the future because of her knee injury, and awarded her €82,750 in resolution of her injury compensation claim for a slip and fall in a Dunnes Stores restaurant which included €20,000 for future pain and suffering. The judge gave Dunnes Stores leave to appeal the verdict on condition that €52,750 of the compensation was paid immediately.
Posted: January 22nd, 2014
A report produced by Trinity College´s Centre for Deaf Studies has shown that hearing impaired employees receive poor medical care after an accident at work compared to injured workers with normal hearing.
The report was prepared by Professor Lorraine Leeson as part of the EU-funded “Medisigns” project, which aims to improve communications between patients, sign language interpreters and medical professionals.
Although not exclusive to hearing impaired employees, the report – “Critical Care Required: Access to Interpreted Healthcare in Ireland” – revealed that patients with hearing difficulties are more likely to be victims of medical negligence.
The report cited several examples of incidents that have occurred recently in Irish hospitals due to a lack of communication between medical professionals and hearing impaired patients:
- One deaf patient tragically died as he tried to walk home from a Galway hospital to his home in Clifden – a distance of 50 miles.
- Another hearing impaired patient attended his local hospital with a finger injury and was subsequently prepped for heart surgery.
- A third example concerned a deaf woman who did not sleep for three nights after surgery because she was unable to communicate that she was cold.
The research also showed that hearing impaired employees receive poor medical treatment because hospitals do not always have the resources to attend to deaf patients – with one case study revealing that emergency department staff had to call on the skills of a hospitalised child who understood sign language to act as an interpreter in an emergency scenario.
A Health Service Executive (HSE) spokesperson who commented on the findings of the report said that hospital patients who are hearing impaired or deaf “have a right” to have somebody capable of signing medical terms and treatments present at healthcare appointments; and the health care provider (hospital, GP, outpatient´s clinic) must allocate the resources to attend appropriately to deaf patients.
Providing a sign language interpreter is often possible when appointments are made in advance, and that often injured workers who are hard of hearing are able to bring a signer with them; however hearing impaired employees may receive poor medical care if they are involved in a serious accident at work and no signing friend or family member is available to accompany them to hospital.
Professor Leeson argues in her report that a shortage of resources is no excuse for hearing impaired employees to receive poor medical care. She said:
“At the end of the line it is [the hospital´s] responsibility to make sure that they are gaining informed consent from their patients and to ensure that their patients understand. What we are finding is that patients are saying that they absolutely do not understand what is happening.”
She added that neglecting to provide the services of a sign language interpreter could have grave repercussions for both the patient and the hospital who failed in their duty of care: “what [would be] the cost if the hospital was found to be liable for not actually clearly communicating with their patients and there are consequences arising from that”.
Footnote: If you or somebody close to you is deaf, and has suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to poor medical care, we understand that it may not be possible for you to use our free telephone advice service. We would therefore recommend that you complete the text box on our contact page with an email address at which we may write to you.