A gay man who was labelled with a homophobic slur by a work colleague has been awarded €27,000 over being continually harassed in the workplace on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
The man stated in evidence at the Workplace Relations Commission that the man used the slur to a co-worker and went on to say "I better not sit beside him, or I'll catch the gayness from him".
The complainant told the WRC that the comments were aimed at him on a daily fashion and there was constant sniggering and juvenile, stereotypical references made in his company, all of which made him feel under threat and humiliated.
The man stated that that it was well known in the company that he was gay, and he suffered direct discrimination as a result of his sexual orientation.
The complainant stated that the co-worker and a team leader repeatedly laughed and sniggered into his face and made disparaging remarks about him, including comments about his social media account, which included him and his partner.
The man alleged that he was regularly and repeatedly subjected to homophobic abuse and was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of his sexuality.
The man worked as a scheduler for an installation provider and he told the WRC that he was in constant fear and worry at work.
He stated that the work environment for him was the most hostile he ever worked in.
The man - who commenced working at the company in September 2017 - alleged that he suffered continually at the hands of a team leader and others who allegedly explicitly referenced and ridiculed him about his sexual orientation.
He said that his mental health was suffering incredibly, to such an extent, that he was treated with depression and ended up in the Emergency Department of a hospital with panic attacks.
The complainant stated that his own team leader intervened and defended him on many occasions.
The complainant contended that the manner of the Operations Manager's investigation of his complaints of harassment was disastrous.
He stated that the Operations Manager claimed that both he and a female worker who corroborated his claims "were liars" and told them "not to be wasting her time".
WRC Adjudication Officer James Kelly stated that he found the complainant's evidence "to be very credible" and that the employer had discriminated against the man on the grounds of his sexual orientation and that the complainant had been harassed.
Mr Kelly stated that the events described have been corroborated for a large part by a female co-worker.
The female co-worker told the WRC that she tried to support the complainant throughout the process and even gave evidence in an interview with the Operation Manager of what she had seen and heard.
Mr Kelly stated that the unwanted conduct at the workplace relating to the complainant's sexual orientation "had the purpose and effect of violating his dignity".
"It has without doubt created an intense, hostile, humiliating and offensive environment for him in the workplace. It had a great burden on his physical and mental health where he was hospitalised," he said.
Mr Kelly stated that the complainant has established a prima facie case that he was harassed in the workplace on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
He added that the employer has not mounted a defence that it took steps to prevent the harassment and is therefore liable for the harassment suffered by the complainant.
A representative for the company was in attendance at the WRC hearing and stated that the particular office that the complainant had worked in had closed down and all the staff had moved on.
The company said it held no records on the allegations or statements from the relevant people cited by the complainant.
The company added that it was not in a position to rebut the allegations raised against it by the complainant.
Mr Kelly said the €27,000 award, to be paid by the employer, is the equivalent of 18 months gross pay for the sustained distress suffered by the complainant and the effects of the discrimination and harassment on him and his health.
Mr Kelly also said the award under the Employment Equality Acts is arrived at having regard to the seriousness of the discrimination, the effect on the complainant and the requirement that the sanction be "effective, dissuasive and proportionate".