An Irish restaurant has been ordered to pay over £17,000 (€20,000) in compensation to a gay bar manager whose bosses called him “queer” almost every day at work.
The man, who has remained anonymous, brought the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in the Republic of Ireland, giving numerous examples of offensive comments from his two bosses.
Known in the case as ‘Director A’ and ‘Director B’, the pair made frequent homophobic comments to the bar manager both in and out of work. The WRC rejected their claim that it was just “banter.”
The Irish Times reported a number of examples heard by the WRC, including an occasion when the bar manager returned a scarf he had borrowed from Director B, and Director B commented: “I hope I don’t catch the gay off the scarf.”
On another occasion when the bar manager and his husband dined in the restaurant, Director A referred to the drink they ordered as a “queer’s drink” and asked, “Would you like a scarf and umbrella to go with it?”
Director B made another offensive comment at a management meeting at which breakfast was served, concerning the sausages the bar manager was eating.
In a further example, the bar manager revealed a WhatsApp message from Director A wishing him “Happy Pride Day ye Big Queer.” Director A said the laughing emojis included in this message meant it was a joke. Another WhatsApp message from Director A referred to the gay man as a “steamer” (a slang word for faeces).
The bar manager frequently told Director A to stop, but he did not. The comments continued with such frequency that they became almost normalised, but still offended him. He said he had never experienced these kind of comments from any other employer.
— WRC Adjudication Officer Marian Duffy
In defence, Director A said that he never used the word “queer” in conversation with the bar manager, adding that some of his best friends are gay and lesbian. Director B also denied he made any offensive remarks to the complainant.
Ruling in the bar manager’s favour, WRC Adjudication Officer Marian Duffy said: “I cannot comprehend how senior managers in a workplace would consider it acceptable to call such offensive names or make such offensive comments to a gay man.”
She said: “I am satisfied that it is a breach of their trust and duty of care towards their employee to create and tolerate such a degrading and offensive work environment.”
As well as the compensation, she ordered staff training to be put in place aimed at preventing harassment on the nine grounds of discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts.