Belfast Telegraph

Strabane Lottery winner ordered to pay ex-employee £30k in bias case

By Allan Preston

A lottery winner from Strabane has been ordered to pay £30,000 to a former employee for bullying and firing him on a "vindictive whim".

Margaret Loughrey (54), who won £27m in the EuroMillions draw in 2013, employed Patrick Breslin (34) as an assistant for five weeks in 2016.

He took an employment case against her, claiming she fired him suddenly by text on June 24, 2016 and she had repeatedly ridiculed him for his devout Catholic faith as well as his gender.

Sunday Life reported the employment tribunal unanimously ruled in favour of Mr Breslin and said Ms Loughrey was guilty of a "blatant and corrosive campaign" against him.

Ms Loughrey had provided employment, a place to live and a holiday to Egypt for Mr Breslin.

The tribunal's decision, however, said her motives had been more about "a campaign of control and denigration of the claimant", whom she already knew to be a vulnerable individual.

The panel heard how Ms Loughrey, often accompanied by two female employees, had regularly mocked Mr Breslin's religion by sending offensive photos.

On one occasion he returned home to find she had entered the property to move one of his religious statues.

A text followed from Ms Loughrey, saying: "Do you like where I left your silly little person?"

A further photograph was sent of a Virgin Mary statue with a cigarette and glass of whiskey.

Mr Breslin said the religious mocking continued on a daily basis, and that after he asked her not to enter his house any more she said: "I pay your f****** wages, not some make-believe puppet."

Regarding the mocking of his gender, Mr Breslin claimed she told him that "all men are b******s", which she denied.

Her dismissal text message on June 24, 2016, read: "You are f***** Paddy. Get back into the old house, you will need to sign back on."

As Mr Breslin had not been employed for over a year, the tribunal focused on discrimination rather than unfair dismissal.

In her evidence, Ms Loughrey had claimed Mr Breslin had been "crafty and sneaky" and was telling lies to take her money.

The panel ruled, however, he had been "steady and reliable" in his evidence and had never asked for money.

"If money had been his motivation, he could simply have played the game as her employee," the panel said.

They added it was difficult to conceive of a more "blatant and corrosive campaign of conduct", and that it was appropriate for Ms Loughrey to pay £30,000 for injury to Mr Breslin's feelings.

Belfast Telegraph

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