Belfast Telegraph

Belfast O2 worker wins £35k over sexual harassment claim

By Jonathan Bell

A Northern Ireland woman has won a £35,000 payout for a claim of sexual harassment against her employer, Telefonica which runs an O2 shop in Belfast.

Natasha McCullough, from Belfast, was supported in her case by the Equality Commission.

She alleged she endured sexual harassment from a manager between January 2016 to August 2016, which caused her "great distress". She also claimed her complaint was not dealt with properly leading her to take sick leave before eventually resigning.

Telefonica UK Limited settled the case without admission of liability, apologising for any injury to feelings, distress and upset caused by reason of the matters giving rise to her claims.

It also affirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity and undertook to liaise with the Equality Commission to review its policies, practices and procedures to ensure they are fully compliant with national and European law as well as pledging to implement any reasonable recommendations the commission may make. It also agreed to provide training to all staff including managers, to include their obligations and responsibilities under the Sex Discrimination Order 1976.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, an O2 spokeswoman said: "We do not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment and have policies in place to protect and train our people."

Ms McCullough said: “This entire episode ended up being a serious source of stress for me. 

“I had a lot of painful and unsightly physical symptoms of stress, breathing difficulties and, eventually, panic attacks and I felt frightened, powerless and vulnerable. I felt that I was being isolated because I had complained about the behaviour.”

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Dr Evelyn Collins

Dr Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission added: “This case should remind all employers how important it is to ensure, not just that they have appropriate policies in place, but also that their policies are actually being implemented. Managers should be alert to unacceptable behaviour and take appropriate action to stop it.

“When complaints of sexual harassment are made, employers must ensure that they are dealt with promptly, seriously and confidentially and in accordance with the internal grievance procedure, treating employees with fairness, dignity and respect."

She added: "It is an important outcome of the resolution of cases like these that lessons are learned. Every employer should have effective policies in place, not just to deal with such situations when they arise, but to ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent them occurring in the first place.”

In a statement, an O2 spokeswoman said: "We cannot comment on the specific case which was settled without admission of liability.

"More generally, we do not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment and have policies in place to protect and train our people."

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