Dublin family ordered to pay Spanish au pair over sexual harassment

A WRC adjudicator has ordered the married couple to pay the teenage au pair €9,100 compensation
Dublin family ordered to pay Spanish au pair over sexual harassment

Gordon Deegan

A man sexually harassed an 18-year-old Spanish au pair here when he asked her if she had any "naughty pictures" of herself, before allegedly touching and tickling her.

The question to the teenager and alleged sexual advances made towards her by her then employer on August 25th 2020 left the teenager in fear, and she could not sleep in the house as she was all alone with the man at the Dublin family home.

The man’s wife and one-year-old baby daughter were on holiday in Spain at the time.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator, Jim Dolan has ordered the married couple to pay the teenage au pair €9,100 compensation - or one year’s pay - after upholding her claim for sexual harassment, harassment and discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts.

Mr Dolan said that only the au pair and the man “know exactly what happened on the night of 25th August 2020”.

Man's actions

The au pair said that the man’s actions left her “feeling unsafe, fearful, intimidated, degraded, humiliated and her dignity violated”.

The man denied the au pair’s allegations concerning the events of August 25th, 2020.

However, Mr Dolan found that on the balance of probability, the evidence submitted by the au pair “to be more compelling”.

Mr Dolan said that there is very little or no information relating to the husband’s version of what took place on August 25th, 2020.

The woman recruited the au pair through a Facebook group called "Au Pairs in Dublin”.

In her evidence, the au pair - who commenced her work with the Dublin-based couple on July 16th 2020 - stated that after returning to the house on August 25th 2020, the husband asked her to see her phone, so he could see pictures of her friends.

Photo request

The man then commented that the au pair was the "prettiest of them all" and that he thought she was "really interesting" and “beautiful".

The au pair then alleged that the man asked her if she had any "naughty pictures" of herself on her phone.

The au pair said "No" and made it clear that she was becoming uncomfortable.

The au pair said that the man then stated that his wife was "going crazy" on holidays as he was alone in the house with the au pair.

The au pair asserted that the man then placed his hands at her armpits and used his fingers in a tickling fashion, applying pressure to her armpits and sides.

The au pair - who was paid €175 per week along with ‘bed and board’ - told the WRC that she was visibly uncomfortable and said "No" and "Stop" on a number of occasions, but the man continued attempting to tickle her after she made it clear that she did not consent to this activity.

The au pair further alleged that the man moved directly next to her on the couch where she was sitting and began rubbing both her upper legs up and down.

She stated that the man then repeated that he found her "very interesting".

This made the au pair very uncomfortable, and she again said "No" and "Stop". Only when she got up off the couch did the alleged touching end.

Texts

The au pair stated that when the mother left Ireland for her Spanish holiday, the husband began texting the au pair far more frequently, in a more conversational and chatty manner.

The August 25th incident was reported to the Gardai on September 16th 2020 - three days after the couple told the au pair that she was being dismissed with immediate effect and was evicted by the couple from their home.

The au pair informed the man’s wife of the August 25th 2020 incident after the woman called the gardai after the couple got into an argument. The woman told the au pair that she had called the gardaí on at least one other occasion.

The au pair - represented by Karl Gill of Dublin South Citizens Information Service - told the WRC that the woman told her that she believed her concerning the August 25th incident.

The husband went on holiday to Portugal on September 4th and returned to Dublin on September 12th 2020.

On the evening of 13th September 2020 the au pair was requested by the couple to speak with them.

Dismissal

The husband informed her that she was dismissed from employment with immediate effect and the wife allegedly commented that "I think it is for the best because I need to get over what happened between you two" and "It's better for me not to think about it every day”.

The au pair was then requested to leave the house straight away.

She was to move out with all of her belongings as soon as a taxi arrived for her.

She stated that she did not know Dublin well, and she eventually found a hostel to stay in at the last minute. The following day she made arrangements to stay in a friend's house.

The couple were not aware that the au pair had friends that she could stay with when they evicted her.

It was submitted on her behalf that evicting a young woman to wander in a city unknown to her at nighttime in a pandemic is extremely cruel treatment and is victimisation and further discrimination for the purposes of the Employment Equality Act.

The au pair told the WRC that the nature of her relationship with the man was purely professional and that she had no physical or emotional interest in him whatsoever.

The au pair submitted that she never flirted with the man or expressed any kind of intimate, romantic, emotional or physical interest in him and that his physical and verbal conduct of a sexual nature was entirely unwanted and inappropriate.

In evidence, the wife told the hearing that in relation to calling the gardaí she stated that her husband had stolen her phone and she became angry and that was why she had called the gardaí.

The wife stated that her husband denied all wrong-doing concerning the events of August 25th.

The wife stated that she was not happy that random boys were coming to the house looking for the au pair, and she felt that Tinder was a dating app and not a friendship app as suggested by the au pair’s representative.

 

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