Belfast Telegraph

Catholic sales manager subjected to sectarian harassment at work awarded £20,000

A woman has been awarded £20,000 compensation after an employment tribunal found a colleague subjected her to sectarian harassment when he shouted "Tiocfaidh ar la" at her while at work.

Helen Scott, 52, brought a case against Belfast-based bathroom suppliers Stevenson & Reid Ltd, on the grounds that she was discriminated against, harassed and victimised due to her religious belief or political opinion and constructively unfairly dismissed.

Ms Scott said the company workforce was primarily Protestant and that she was the only Catholic member of staff working at the company's East Belfast showroom, where she was employed as a sales manager.

She alleges that in July 2015, her line manager became irate with her and began shouting at her in front of colleagues during which he swore at her and shouted "Tiocfaidh ar la" in her face.

The phrase, which means "our day will come" in English, was associated with Republicanism during the Troubles.

Ms Scott said she felt harassed by the incident and that her manager had used the Irish language expression due to her perceived religious and political beliefs.

She subsequently went on sick leave from her position but said she was later dismissed despite medical records being sent to the business.

Ms Scott then brought a Fair Employment case against the company, backed by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.

The Tribunal found that she was unfairly dismissed and victimised due to her background, ruling that the use of the phrase had had "a clear sectarian significance".

Responding to the Tribunal's decision, Ms Scott said: "I'm very relieved that this is all over. It has been an extremely stressful time for me and my family.

"The shock of being singled out for sectarian abuse in front of colleagues was incredibly intimidating. I was deeply hurt and upset at the way I had been treated and it had a really negative impact on my confidence and self-esteem."

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: "In this decision, the Fair Employment Tribunal has acknowledged the serious effects sectarian harassment can have on individuals and workplaces.

"This incident of shouting a phrase with a 'clear sectarian significance' should have been dealt with properly at the time.

"Victimisation after a protected act, in this case raising concerns about an incident of harassment, showed a serious deficit in knowledge and understanding on behalf of the company at the most senior level."

A spokesman for Stevenson & Reid Ltd said: "The company has stated that it respects the decision handed down by the industrial tribunal, adding that the incident was unfortunate and a total aberration.

"The company, which has employed people from both sides of the community for 40 years, has never had a similar incident in all that time and has from its inception had a total commitment to equality in the workplace.

"It will ensure that such an incident will never be repeated."

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