Belfast Telegraph

Sex pest worker forced woman from job, tribunal told

A Polish woman claimed she was repeatedly sexually harrassed by a Polish colleague while working on a food production line in Belfast, an industrial tribunal heard yesterday.

Marzena Kopowska (29), who lives in Holywood, Co Down, is claiming constructive dismissal from Mac’s Quality Foods in Dunmurry, where she worked for 15 months until December 2007.

The tribunal heard Mrs Kopowska had gone off on sick leave due to back pain from heavy lifting and suffering a nervous breakdown, which she claimed was caused by her colleague, Ziggy Kaczmarek, who has since returned to Poland.

Mrs Kopowska described a number of occasions when she was physically and verbally sexually harassed by Mr Kaczmarek who was promoted to supervisor during her period of employment. She said Mr Kaczmarek had undressed in the factory changing room in front of her and another colleague, Maria Balcewicz, and showed them a picture of what she thought was a flower on his buttock. He claimed his young daughter had drawn it with a pen.

On numerous occasions, she claimed Mr Kaczmarek had approached her from behind and pressed himself against her, pinning her to the production belt where they were packing food.

Mrs Kopowska described how he told her that she was “his type and that sooner or later I would be his”. The 29-year-old also alleged that the Polish married man had upset her in the canteen one day when he took a photograph of her eating a banana.

Mac’s Quality Foods, which is a small family-owned company that manufactures breaded products such as chicken and fish for the catering industry, was represented by owner Margaret McIlroy.

Under cross-examination Mrs McIlroy asked Mrs Kopowska if anyone witnessed the harassment. She replied that colleagues must have seen it and one of them, Maria Balcewicz, had “told Ziggy off a few times”.

Mrs McIlroy argued that her son, Danny McIlroy, who manages the company only learned of the sexual harassment allegations in January 2008 after Mrs Kopowska went on sick leave. Mrs Kopowska replied that she had tried to complain of the harassment but wasn’t listened to.

The hearing, which had been adjourned in June, is expected to continue into next week.

Belfast Telegraph

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