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Work Injury Claim

Former Costa Coffee Barista Awarded €20,000 Due to Harassment

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.

 

 

Former Content Moderator File Class Action Suit Against YouTube

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.

 

 

Woman Seeking Injury Compensation due to Slipping on a Muffin

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.

Man Ordered to Pay Ex-Wife Unfair Dismissal Compensation

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.

 

 

€20,000 Sexual Harassment Compensation for Deli Worker

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.

Facebook Content Moderator Seeks Damages due to Disturbing Content Viewed

Posted: December 5th, 2019

A former Facebook content moderator today submitted a legal action to the High Court, which is expected to be followed by more compensation claims for other moderators, due to the psychological trauma he sustained from viewing disturbing and graphic content.

Mr Chris Gray submitted the workplace trauma compensation action, stating that he was expected to view a range of inappropriate content on a daily basis and filter out disturbing content with a 98% accuracy rating. Content that was labelled inappropriate included “various scenes of people dying in different accidents … set to a musical soundtrack. [Gray] had a long argument with the quality point of contact [a senior role] about whether the music meant that the person posting it was ‘celebrating’ or whether it just counted as disturbing content.”

The claimant said that he was traumatized and under an unacceptable amount of stress due to the nature of the content he viewed and his daily work targets. Mr Gray developed He developed difficulty sleeping and said that would regularly wake during the night due to nightmares. He stated: “It took me a year after I left to realise how much I’d been affected by the job. I don’t sleep well, I get in stupid arguments, have trouble focusing.”

Mr Gray, who is being represented by solicitor, Diane Treanor  of Coleman Legal Partners, is likely to be the first of a number of content moderators working with CPL Solutions and Facebook to file a compensation claim due to trauma. Ms Treanor said that content moderators based in Berlin and Barcelona have also contacted her firm with an interest in joining a lawsuit. Mr Gray remarked: “If I can get them better working conditions, better care, then that also improves the quality of the content moderation decisions and the impact on society.”

Facebook released a statement which said: “We are committed to providing support for those that review content for Facebook as we recognise that reviewing certain types of content can sometimes be difficult. Everyone who reviews content for Facebook goes through an in-depth, multi-week training program on our Community Standards and has access to extensive psychological support to ensure their wellbeing. This includes 24/7 on-site support with trained practitioners, an on-call service, and access to private healthcare from the first day of employment. We are also employing technical solutions to limit their exposure to graphic material as much as possible. This is an important issue, and we are committed to getting this right.”

UK-based not-for-profit group Foxglove is supporting the court case and Director Cori Crider said: “The reason we’ve got involved is that we think that social media factory floors are unsafe and need to be cleared up. In a decade we’re going to look back on this as we did at meat packing plants at the turn of the century. Facebook’s only going to pay attention to things when they know that they’ve got a typhoon bearing down on them. What I’d like to see is the moderators realising how much power they have if they just organise. Because let’s face it, social media as we know it could not exist without the labour people like Chris provide.”

 

 

 

€76,000 Awarded to Garda who Vacated his Role Due to Depression

Posted: November 6th, 2019

A garda whose finger was broken by a person being deported quit the force 10 years early because of depression after the incident has been awarded approximately €76,000.

The Garda had initially take the work injury compensation state against the State for €310,893 in relation to a loss of earnings. In addition to this there was a claim filed seeking damages for personal injuries related to the physical damage to his right small finger around 20 years ago, Mr Justice Michael Twomey said in a High Court compensation ruling.

Judge Twomey said the loss-of-earnings figure had been claimed on the basis that the incident in which his finger had been broken had led to him becoming depressed and being forced to retire from the force.

The decision was taken to anonymise his compensation application and referred to the garda only as Garda B as the case involved very personal details about the garda’s family.

The Judge said that said Garda B had received two injections and no other medical treatment for the fracture and made a complete physical recovery. The main stumbling point in the case remained the extent to which Garda B’s psychiatric injuries could be attributed to the incident when his little finger had been fractured.

Judge Twomey said awards must be fair both to a plaintiff and defendant and modest damages should be awarded in relation to minor injuries, moderate damages for middling injuries and severe injuries should result in damages which were distinguishable from catastrophic injuries.

Due to this he awarded €42,699 for loss of earnings, €10,000 for physical pain and suffering as a result of his fractured finger and €10,000 for psychological pain and suffering caused by his depression arising from the incident.

Judge Twomey also awarded the garda €8,180 for out-of-pocket medical expenses in relation to both the physical and mental suffering and €5,100 for loss of earnings due to absence on sick leave because of the fracture alone – a total sum of €75,981 damages. The damages had also to be proportionate to the general cap of €450,000.

€30,000 Award For Woman Sexually Harassed by Chef

Posted: October 15th, 2019

A facilities company has been issued an order to pay €30,000 to a female catering assistant who had her bottom pinched by a chef/manager in a series of sexual harassment incidents involving the senior male employee.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne, said in her ruling: “As an instance of sexual harassment, a pinch on the bottom may not be at the extreme end of the scale, but it is well within the definition of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It was also at the end of a continuum of incidents including a punch in the ribs, being sniffed at, constant unwanted touching and making offensive sexual remarks about the complainant to her husband.”

The €30,000 award represents 18 months income for the worker. The company provides catering services at the offices of a government department.

The Polish worker submitted a complaint of sexual harassment in relation to the bottom pinch to her employer on the day the incident occurred, February 1 2018.  The chef/manager refuted the allegations and counter-claimed he had a sanitiser bottle in his hand and that the bottle brushed up against the female.

Following an investigation by the employer the chef’s claims were accepted, as was his explanation of  other issues raised by the female worker and by the extended team.

In making her award, Byrne stated that she believed the catering assistant when she said that the chef/manager pinched her bottom. She said: “It is my view that the effect of the sexual harassment suffered by the complainant was compounded by the failure of the respondent to give any credence to her evidence and I find that, of itself, this demonstrated a lack of respect for her. To compensate for this treatment, I decide that the respondent is to pay the complainant compensation of €30,000, which is equivalent to 18 months’ wages.”

 

Former Bus Éireann Driver Awarded €10,200 Constructive Dismissal Compensation

Posted: September 10th, 2019

€10,200 in constructive dismissal compensation must be paid by to a long-serving Bus Éireann driver after a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Dan Fitzpatrick said that he has been left ‘deeply traumatised’ over the way he was constructively dismissed by the bus company. Mr Fitzpatrick had been working for Bus Eireann for 16 years in the Galway region. The company told him that he would need to step down from his position or face being terminated due to an incident involving an elderly passenger in November 2017.

In the incident in question Mr Fitzpatrick said that he physically escorted an elderly passenger off a Galway city route bus service after an angry exchange between the two and repeated requests from Mr Fitzpatrick for the man to depart the bus. Once the gentleman was off the bus Mr Fitzpatrick got back into his driver’s seat and proceeded to drive off.

The day following the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick was called to his supervisor’s office where he viewed three different CCTV recording of what occurred and was immediately suspended pending a subsequent disciplinary hearing.

If he chose to remain in his position and be fired and he would have no longer have qualified for his €10,000 to €15,000 retirement gratuity. due to this he retired on November 27, 2017, after what he described to the WRC as “a flawed and unfair disciplinary investigation” by Bus Éireann. He then submitted a claim for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act with the WRC.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Ray Flaherty said that Mr Fitzpatrick had no choice but to retire when he was told failure to do so would lead to him not qualifying for his retirement gratuity and referred to the gratuity ultimatum to Mr Fitzpatrick as “unreasonable and unacceptable”.

In his ruling, Mr Flaherty said that comments made to Mr Fitzpatrick by a supervisor that “there is no excuse for this behaviour” in the incident and “you will never work in the company again” backed up Mr Fitzpatrick’s claim that fair process was not followed.

Bus Éireann were not present at the WRC oral hearing but a Bus Éireann representative commented: “Bus Éireann do not comment on individual cases and we have no further comment”.

 

 

 

Psychological Trauma of Social Media Moderators Highlighted in BBC Documentary

Posted: August 20th, 2019

The possibility of working conditions and duties leading to the psychological trauma of social media moderators has been highlighted in a BBC documentary.

The report detailed the working experience of Shawn Speaglem who worked as a Facebook content moderator for a third party company Cognizant, based in Florida in the United States. Despite have completed a non-disclosure agreement about his time in the role, Shawn opted to disregard this so he could speak out on the pictures and images that workers have to view due to Facebook’s moderation policies and processes.

He said: “One of my first videos that I remember looking at was two teenagers grabbing an iguana by the tail and they smashed it onto the pavement while a third person was recording it. And the iguana was screaming and the kids just would not stop until the iguana was just pasted on the ground. I’ve seen people put fireworks in a dog’s mouth and duct tape it shut. I’ve seen cannibalism videos, I’ve seen terrorism propaganda videos.”

Shawn told the documentary makers that he has suffered great stress, weight gain and depression due to the content he had to view as part of his expected duties. He said: “I felt like I was a zombie in my seat. It really gets to you because I don’t have that bystander syndrome where I’m OK just watching this suffering and not contributing any way to deter it.”

In Ireland, where the European Union headquarters of many social media platforms are located in Dublin, a legal action is being considered on behalf of moderators in relation to their working conditions. Facebook has faced actions similar to this in the past. In September 2018 Selena Scola, a former content moderator with the company submitted a legal action against the company in relation to the mental effects of the work was had to complete. She claimed that the viewing of disturbing images and videos lead to her developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the time that she was employed at the Facebook headquarters in California. Subsequent to this two more former Facebook content moderators issued similar claims and, as a result, Facebook may now face a class-action lawsuit in relation to this issue.

Continual and repeated exposure to harmful content is an unfortunate side effect of the as part a Moderators role. These side effects can lead to psychological injury and traumatic mental damage to the Moderators over time due to the content that they have to view due to the review and publishing policy of the social media platforms that they work for.

Such trauma can have a great impact depending on the actual content witnessed, the provision and availability of proper support mechanisms from employers to allow staff to deal with work-related trauma and work expectations. The latter refers to the level of work and output required to be completed each day. It is the obligation (duty of care) of the employer to ensure that they provide a safe place of work, a safe system of work and to prevent harm to their employees.

Any content moderators who have suffered due to their working conditions, or required outputs, should look after their own health and seek help as soon as possible. it is also advisable to contact an experienced solicitor to ensure that the company is acting with a duty of care to them.

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