Belfast Telegraph

£6,000 payout to worker who claimed sex harassment at community association

By Adrian Rutherford

A woman who alleged she was subjected to sexual harassment while employed by a Chinese community association has received a £6,000 payout.

Jing-Yueh Huang-Porterfield settled her case against Wah Hep Chinese Community Association in Craigavon without any admission of liability.

Ms Huang-Porterfield was employed as a Chinese community administration worker with the organisation for 20 months, from February 2015 until her resignation in October 2016.

She alleged that, during that time, a manager made sexually offensive and suggestive comments and behaved inappropriately.

Ms Huang-Porterfield explained: “I liked my job and enjoyed being able to advise and support Chinese people.

“It was very upsetting when my manager began to make inappropriate sexual comments and gestures towards me.

“I did not ask for or encourage this behaviour, I wanted it to stop. I wanted to go to work and do my job without worrying about what the next inappropriate sexual innuendo would be.”

Ms Huang-Porterfield said she was left with no option but to quit her job.

“I did raise a grievance with my employer, but I became ill due to the stress of the situation I found myself in and I had to go on sick leave”, she explained. “I felt I had no option but to resign from my job.

“I wish none of this had happened to me, it was an awful experience. I feel I have lost a job that I enjoyed through no fault of my own. But it would have been impossible to have stayed there.”

Ms Huang-Porterfield took her case with the help of the Equality Commission. Anne McKernan, director of legal services at the Equality Commission, said sexual harassment was unacceptable.

“Women are entitled to dignity and respect in the workplace — as are all workers — and employers must deal effectively and promptly with any allegations of improper treatment or behaviour”, she said. “It must be emphasised that there is a legal duty on employers to prevent harassment such as that alleged by Jing–Yueh from happening.

“All employers should know that they must have firm policies and procedures in place to deal with situations where a member of their staff feels they are being harassed and how important it is that those policies are consistently implemented.”

In settling the case, the Wah Hep Chinese Community Association paid Ms Huang-Porterfield £6,000 without any admission of liability.

It stated that it sincerely regretted any upset felt by her in the course of her employment with the organisation.

It also affirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the association said: “The decision to agree a settlement of this claim without admission of liability was taken on the basis of legal advice and in the best interests of this organisation.  

“Wah Hep wishes to make clear that the complaints were subject to an internal investigation, which upheld the managers’ rebuttal of the allegations which were made. 

“Wah Hep is fully committed to ensuring that its policies and procedures comply with all requirements of employment law and will work with the Equality Commission as required.”

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