A Catholic Polish cleaner was harassed on the grounds of religion at work in Ireland when a colleague made fun of his tattoo of Jesus.
Now, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator Louise Boyle has ordered Allpro Services to pay €15,000 compensation to Andrzej Waszkiewicz for the harassment he suffered on the grounds of religion and race from a work colleague.
Ms Boyle has ordered the Galway-based security and cleaning business to pay Mr Waszkiewicz €10,000 for the harassment he faced on the grounds of religion and €5,000 for the harassment on the grounds of race under the Employment Equality Act, 1998.
In evidence, Mr Waszkiewicz alleged that a colleague made fun of his religion and race between October 12th to October 22nd 2020, and that his supervisor did nothing to stop it.
Mr Waszkiewicz alleged that when he was changing his t-shirt, a work colleague laughed at his tattoo of Jesus.
Mr Waszkiewicz alleged that his work colleague also laughed at his religious traditions and questioned the credibility of his religion and asked how Mr Waszkiewicz knew that the Catholic faith was better than the Islamic faith.
Mr Waszkiewicz also alleged that this colleague laughed at him because in Poland they celebrate Christmas Day on December 24th.
The complainant also alleged that his work colleague said that the Polish people were too religious and on another occasion when Mr Waszkiewicz exclaimed “Oh my God!” when something happened at work, his work colleague laughed at him for using the word "God" and on another occasion his work colleague made derogatory comments about the Pope.
Mr Waszkiewicz told the WRC that he found it difficult to cope with this and went to his doctor who certified him sick from November 11th 2020, and as result of the incidents he had to take anti-depressants.
Mr Waszkiewicz - who commenced work at Allpro Services in August 2020 - gave evidence that he remained on certified sick leave until April 2021.
In cross-examination, Mr Waszkiewicz confirmed that he never told his employer he was laughed at because of his race or religion and advised that he did not think there was any point reporting the incidents as his employer failed to respond to his previous complaints regarding alleged bullying.
Mr Waszkiewicz’s daughter, Angelica, gave evidence that she was there when her father came home upset and that he would not leave the house and that she had never seen him like that.
Ms Waszkiewicz said that he stopped talking to her and that she witnessed how badly these events impacted him.
Under cross-examination, Ms Waszkiewicz said that since her father left the company his mood has improved and he can now go out.
In her findings after hearing two days of evidence, Ms Boyle stated that she found Mr Waszkiewicz’s evidence that the incidents of harassment occurred more credible.
Ms Boyle also found it reasonable that Mr Waszkiewicz did not believe that his employer would appropriately investigate his colleague when he made fun of the complainant’s tattoo of Jesus, when Mr Waszkiewicz said “Oh My God” and Mr Waszkiewicz’s belief in God as the one true God.
Ms Boyle found that Mr Waszkiewicz has established a prima facie case of discrimination which amounted to harassment on the grounds of religion and race, and found that Allpro Services had failed to rebut this.
Allpro Services rejected that Mr Waszkiewicz had been harassed and submitted that Mr Waszkiewicz had failed to provide a prima facie case of discrimination and harassment.
Ms Boyle stated that Allpro Services' only witness, Liz Cazabon, gave sworn evidence that she arrived at the organisation after the alleged events and that to her knowledge the events did not occur or were said to Mr Waszkiewicz by way of a joke.
The HR consultant questioned Mr Waszkiewicz on whether he understood the Irish way of ‘slagging’.
Under cross-examination, Ms Cazabon submitted that Mr Waszkiewicz was not dismissed but was made redundant owing to no more work available and that he did not qualify for a redundancy payment owing to his length of service.
Ms Boyle found that Ms Cazabon was not engaged by Allpro Services at the time of the alleged harassment and much of her evidence can be regarded as hearsay.
As part of her findings, Ms Boyle stated that Mr Waszkiewicz submitted his complaints in January 2021 and was laid off in April 2021 and the employer made no efforts to contact Mr Waszkiewicz regarding his specific complaints despite being on notice of them during the time of lay-off.
As part of her order, Ms Boyle has ordered Allpro Services to develop a workplace anti-harassment policy and workplace anti-bullying policy that comply with relevant statutory Codes of Practice and take the necessary steps to ensure such policies are verifiably communicated to, and understood by, all employees.