Catholic woman awarded £20,000 after workplace harassment

Published: 29 November 2017

Category: News

A Catholic woman has been awarded £20,000 compensation after being subjected to sectarian harassment at work.

Helen Scott worked at bathroom suppliers Stevenson & Reid Ltd in Belfast. She was the only Catholic among the predominantly Protestant employees in her department.

She said that in 2015, her line manager became angry with her after discovering that he had to attend a meeting instead of her. He started shouting and swearing at her in front of colleagues. During the tirade he shouted the Irish phrase, “Tiocfaidh ar la,” up close to her face in a menacing manner.

This means ‘Our Time Will Come’ and was associated with republicanism during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Ms Scott was shaken by the incident and felt that her manager was trying to suggest she had certain religious or political beliefs.

She suffered from stress and went on sick leave. She later resigned and brought claims of constructive unfair dismissal and discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal found in her favour. It held that the Irish phrase Ms Scott had been subjected to had “a clear sectarian significance”.

The Judge said: "This can only be a threat and is somewhat menacing given that the claimant (Ms Scott) was the only Catholic working in the showroom." 

He added that the phrase was "unwanted and had the effect, if not the purpose, of violating the claimant’s dignity as well as creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment".

He concluded: “The ground for the offensive treatment of the claimant.…was her religion or political opinion."

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

Please contact Matthew Sigsworth in our Dispute Resolution Team if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.