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Sunday Life

Belfast pub employee wins payout after being mocked over accent

 

By Christopher Woodhouse

A woman who was mocked for having a west Belfast accent and harassed for being female has won damages from an industrial tribunal.

Caroline Curran claimed she was made fun of and verbally abused because of her background and gender while working as an assistant manager at the Four Winds bar in Castlereagh.

She claimed that one manager told her she was "not in the Devenish now", in reference to a bar in the west of the city after hearing her speak on the phone.

In another incident she said a male member of staff shouted at her: "Would you women f*** up!... you're never done moaning."

Ms Curran told Sunday Life one of the reasons she took the case was to highlight how women are still treated differently in the workplace.

"I'm a strong person, but I found it extremely difficult to deal with mentally and I can only imagine if it was a younger woman or someone maybe not as strong as myself, what sort of state they would be in?

"I just didn't want to let that go or allow them to treat anybody else like that."

Ms Curran added that she hoped the case would give other women the confidence to challenge such treatment at their place of work.

Ms Curran started working as an assistant manager at the bar in south Belfast in March 2017, under manager Dermott McGinn and alongside fellow assistant manager Conor Magee.

In July that year she became unhappy at her treatment and raised a formal grievance, claiming Mr Magee "constantly undermines me in front of staff".

Ms Curran complained that Mr Magee didn't tell her of changes to a funeral party being held resulting in her handing an incorrect bill to a "very irate" organiser.

In another incident she claimed Mr Magee asked her to ring a customer, listening to the conversation before commenting on her pronunciation of the word 'now', saying: "You were doing well there until you said 'niii'."

She also alleged Mr McGinn had "bullied and harassed" her and that when she handed him her grievance letter, he took it to be a letter of resignation.

Ms Curran also complained about changes being made to staff rotas, which she said he lied about making her feel "as if I'm going insane, sometimes he lies to me to make me think I'm wrong".

She was then signed off sick for two weeks and never returned to work, but she attended a grievance meeting in August during which she stated Mr Magee made pointed jokes like: "You're not in the Devenish now."

Mr Magee denied all of Ms Curran's claims, stating that "he hadn't exactly a posh voice himself", adding that he thought he had the same accent and he was from west Belfast.

The grievance meeting did not hold up her complaints and Ms Curran took the matter to the industrial tribunal.

Ms Curran claimed a male colleague shouted at her, "Would you women just f*** up. Just f*** up. You're never done moaning", after hearing her discuss her treatment at the bar with a female colleague.

At the tribunal a barrister for Four Winds said the company denied that her gender was an "overarching theme" in her complaints against colleagues and that she did not pursue sex discrimination in her grievance.

Mr Magee and Mr McGinn did not give evidence to the tribunal as their barrister stated Ms Curran's gender was "not central to the matter". Ms Curran claimed the treatment amounted to her being constructively dismissed.

In its judgment the tribunal found that she was more likely than not made fun of because of her accent but this was not due to her gender. It further stated that her claims of being undermined by Mr Magee were not due to her gender.

On the claims against Mr McGinn it said this was due to "bad staff management" but was not due to gender. It did find that the comment, "Would you women just f*** up" was a clear instance of sexual harassment.

Ms Curran was awarded £1,080 for injury to feelings.

cwoodhouse@sundaylife.co.uk

@MrCWoodhouse

Belfast Telegraph

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