A Protestant factory worker who claimed that he was harassed on the grounds of religion due to the playing of anti-British songs at his workplace has had his claim rejected.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Glen Weir told the hearing that the playing of anti-British songs at a production assembly area of Dundalk firm, Anord Mardix (Ireland) Ltd made him feel uncomfortable on July 1st, 2020.
Mr Weir said one song contained the lyrics “go home you British b*****ds”.
Living in Northern Ireland, Mr Weir said the song was played two or three times and the music lasted for about two hours.
Mr Weir alleged that while the music was being played a co-worker stopped by his desk and shouted “up the RA”, which he found particularly threatening.
He complained to his employer about the alleged “sectarian abuse” he had received.
Mr Weir said he was very upset by the music and the comment. He said he believed he was the only British Protestant working at this location.
Mr Weir said he was unable to return to work because of the incident and felt intimidated out of his work.
He reported the incident on July 3rd and then made a formal complaint on September 5th, 2020. In response the firm told him that no more personal music would be played on the factory floor.
Anord Mardix also carried out an investigation and an employee admitted to playing the music and explained that it was a random playlist and there was no malicious intent.
She wrote an apology and measures have been put in place by the firm to prevent this recurring.
Also, the company investigation found that the alleged comment ‘up the Ra’ was denied and there was no evidence to support the allegation.
In his findings, WRC adjudicator Hugh Lonsale found that Mr Weir wasn’t harassed on the grounds of religion.
Ms Lonsdale said he was aware that Mr Weir was unhappy with how his complaint was taken initially, that the apology was not fulsome and that no action was taken against either of the individuals whose behaviour he complained of.
He described the case as involving a single non-recurring act of harassment.
Mr Lonsdale said, however, that he was satisfied that the employer successfully relied on the defence to harassment in the Employment Equality Act where it took reasonably practicable steps to prevent the harassment and to reverse the effects of it.
Anord Mardix denied harassment and alleged it was apparent Mr Weir had an agenda and was never going to accept the outcome of the appeal concerning the grievance over the playing of the music on the factory floor.
Mr Lonsdale said when Mr Weir raised his grievance, Anord Mardix (Ireland) attempted to resolve the issue through mediation.
Mr Lonsdale said to avoid a repetition they stopped individuals from playing their own choice of music. When Mr Weir decided he was not happy with the outcome of the mediation, Anord Mardix (Ireland) invoked a formal investigation and, when Mr Weir was unhappy with the outcome of the investigation, undertook an appeal.
The two sides offered conflicting versions of how Mr Weir’s employment with the firm ended.
On October 19th, 2020, Mr Weir was set to return to work but he said he was nervous about returning. He sent the regional head of HR an email saying he “could not work for the IRA”.
Mr Weir went into work but was sent to HR and was issued with a letter suspending him. Mr Weir had a disciplinary hearing on October 30th, 2020, and was dismissed on November 4th, 2020.
Anord Mardix alleged that after Mr Weir was informed of the outcome of the appeal process in late September 2020 concerning his grievance, Mr Weir “sent a series of aggressive, intimidating and threatening emails to the respondent”.
The firm said: “Following a thorough investigation, disciplinary and appeals process the complainant was dismissed by reason of gross misconduct on 4 November 2020.”