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Woman who reported bottom-slapping male boss awarded £90,000 compensation
15 December 2022, 15:33
A woman whose boss smacked her bottom with a ruler after ordering her to stand during a meeting has won £90,000 after settling her sexual harassment claim.
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The woman, who has not been named, was told to stand up and turn around by a male manager during the meeting at a firm in Northern Ireland last year.
Upon being slapped, the woman stated that the male manager simply laughed and said, “I’m sorry, I had to.”
The woman, who eventually quit her job in protest at her treatment, looked at the other male manager and asked: "Is that allowed?"
Both men treated it as a joke, telling other employees arriving at the meeting what had happened.
The woman felt so humiliated and embarrassed by the assault, that she initially couldn’t even tell her mother or boyfriend about what had happened and refused to work until the matter was addressed.
She was also offered a casual coffee shop meeting with a more senior manager and the manager who had slapped her because she felt it was inappropriate.
When the woman raised a grievance, it took her employer 10 days to respond and five weeks to investigate. The employer's inquiry upheld her grievance but also accused her of dressing and behaving provocatively, which she strongly denied.
She quit her job in protest at her treatment and the lack of accountability surrounding it, stating that the firm's allegations were further harassment and that the company was blaming her and treating her as a “troublemaker” instead of acknowledging the nature of the incident.
Geraldine McGahey, head of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), called it a "shocking" case which highlighted a "toxic laddish culture that shows scant respect for female colleagues."
Ms McGahey continued that the woman had "suffered severe embarrassment and humiliation".
"She was talked about in the office," said Ms McGahey. "I really respect the complainant, that she wants to remain anonymous. She wants to get away from the embarrassment and humiliation that she feels is attached to [the incident]."
Ms McGahey argued that the "key message" that other women who are also suffering after being harassed could take away from this incident is that they can report harassment incidents in a "private and confidential way."