Colleague shouted ‘tiocfaidh ár lá’at only Catholic in bathroom shop

Posted By: October 25, 2017

Colleague shouted ‘tiocfaidh ár lá’at only Catholic in bathroom shop

Marie Louise McConville. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Catholic woman has been awarded £20,000 after an employment tribunal heard how a work colleague shouted “tiocfaidh ár lá” [“Our day will come,” Bobby Sands’ motto] at her.

Helen Scott (52) brought a case against bathroom and plumbing firm Stevenson & Reid.

She was the only Catholic employee at its east Belfast showroom

The Belfast woman was awarded £20,000 compensation after it was found she was discriminated against, harassed and victimised on the grounds of her religious belief or political opinion.

Helen Scott (52) was a sales manager for bathroom, plumbing and heating supplier Stevenson & Reid Ltd and the only Catholic employee in its showroom in Prince Regent Road in east Belfast.

The Equality Commission, which supported her case before the Fair Employment Tribunal, said the discrimination and harassment started after an incident in July 2015 when her line manager, who was a director, found out that he was to attend a meeting in her place.

“He shouted and swore at her in front of her colleagues and, as part of the outburst, shouted ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ into her face, in what Ms. Scott found a menacing manner.”

Ms. Scott, who worked for the company from 2011 to 2015, said she was stunned at the use of the phrase and believed it was directed at her “because of her religious background and perceived political opinion with the intention of causing her offense”.

She made a formal complaint a few days later, but the tribunal noted that the firm initiated an investigation into customer complaints against Ms. Scott after she raised her grievance.

It concluded that the reason for starting the investigation was the fact that she had made a complaint.

The tribunal found that the phrase shouted into Ms. Scott’s face has “a clear sectarian significance” and that “the ground for using the phrase ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ was the claimant’s religion or political opinion”.

It added that the line manager’s behavior was “unwanted and had the effect, if not the purpose, of violating the claimant’s dignity as well as creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment” for her.

Ms. Scott went on sick leave in mid-August 2015, but a recorded delivery letter for sick absence without notification, accusing her of breaking her contract, was sent despite the company knowing a medical certificate was en route.

The tribunal found that the investigation, along with the treatment she received during her sick leave, constituted victimisation and Ms. Scott – who resigned later that month – had suffered an unfair constructive dismissal.

She said last night she was “very relieved” the process was over, adding that she had been “deeply hurt and upset at the way” she had been treated.

“It was the company’s duty to protect me from harassment in the workplace, and yet when I raised a complaint, it was anything but protective and instead victimised me for having done  so.”

Dr. Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: “This incident of shouting a phrase with a ‘clear sectarian significance’ should have been dealt with properly at the time.

“Victimisation after a protected act, in this case raising concerns about an incident of harassment, showed a serious deficit in knowledge and understanding on behalf of the company at the most senior level.”

A spokesman for Stevenson & Reid Ltd said: “The company has stated that it respects the decision handed down by the industrial tribunal, adding that the incident was unfortunate and a total aberration.

“The company, which has employed people from both sides of the community for 40 years, has never had a similar incident in all that time and has from its inception had a total commitment to equality in the workplace.

“It will ensure that such an incident will never be