Dublin family ordered to pay au pair €9,000 for sexual harassment by host father

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An au pair who said her foster father made sexual advances to her and touched her without consent while his wife was away will receive over €9,000 in compensation for sexual harassment.

The Spanish national said she had to resort to a hostel stay after being summarily fired and kicked out of the couple’s Dublin home, after being told the host mother needed to ‘get over what happened “.

Her rep told the Workplace Relations Commission that deporting a young woman “for wandering around a city she didn’t know at night in a pandemic” was “extremely cruel.”

The host couple deny and dismiss the complainant’s account of sexual harassment “in its entirety”.

The au pair, who was 18 when hired by the couple, filed a complaint with the Workplace Relations Commission under the Employment Equality Act, alleging that she had experienced gender discrimination, sexual harassment and victimization in August 2020.

The couple, identified only as Mr B, a Portuguese national, and Ms B, a Spanish national, denied the harassment.

They told the commission that they had recruited the au pair using a Facebook group called ‘Au Pairs in Dublin’ offering ‘pocket money’ of €175 per week – and that they viewed the arrangement as ” more a cultural exchange than a working relationship”.

The au pair arrived in July 2020.

On August 19, 2020, Ms B took the baby on a week-long vacation to Spain and left her husband at home to work, the commission said.

In a presentation of evidence on behalf of the former au pair, Karl Gill of South Dublin Citizens Information Service said that Mr B’s text messages to his client had become more frequent and that after leaving of his wife, they were more “conversative and talkative” than before. messages about his salary.

“Our client initially saw nothing untoward in this behavior, but in hindsight she now believes it was an attempt by Mr. B to flirt or groom her,” said he declared.

The texts given in evidence to the commission included a reference to her “energy” and asked her to take video calls and explain where she was when she was out late – which the au pair considered a ” unnecessary supervision.

She arrived home on the evening of August 25 and was greeted by Mr B, who asked to see pictures of his friends because he “needed to know he could trust [her]said Mr. Gill.

Mr B then remarked that the au pair was the ‘prettiest of them all’ and said she was ‘really interesting’ and ‘beautiful’, Mr Gill said.

Then Mr B asked if his client had any ‘naughty pictures’ on her phone, Mr Gill said.

Her answer was ‘no’ and she ‘clearly indicated that she was becoming uncomfortable’, Mr Gill said.

Mr B went on to tell the au pair that his wife was ‘going crazy’ because they were together in the house, Mr Gill added.

The foster dad “then placed his hands under his armpits and used his fingers to tickle, applying pressure to his armpits and sides,” Mr Gill said.

“She said ‘no’ and ‘stop’ repeatedly, but Mr B kept trying to tickle her after he made it clear she was not consenting,” Mr Gill said.

Then Mr. B sat next to her on the sofa and “started rubbing both of her thighs up and down,” Mr. Gill said. “She said ‘no’ and ‘stop’ again,” he added, but the touching continued until he got up from the couch.

“That night, the complainant could not sleep. Mr. B had not given him his room key. She was left in fear that night,” Mr Gill said.

He said his client had “no physical or emotional interest” in Mr B and was confused as to how the situation arose, and “never flirted…or expressed any intimate interest, romantic, emotional or physical for him”.

Mr B left for Portugal in early September following a row over Ms B’s return from Spain, said Mr Gill, who had led Ms B to phone the gardaí because she was “obviously afraid “.

At this point, the au pair told her what had happened on the night of August 25, and Ms B said she believed her, Mr Gill told the commission.

Mr B returned to Dublin on September 12 and the following day the couple sat down with the au pair and dismissed her with immediate effect, Mr Gill said.

Ms B told her client: ‘I think it’s best because I have to get over what happened between you two,’ Mr Gill said.

They asked her to leave with all her belongings as soon as a taxi arrived – and she found a hostel before making arrangements to stay with a friend the next day, he said.

On September 15, she reported Mr. B to the gardaí.

“Deporting a young woman to wander around an unfamiliar city at night in a pandemic is extremely cruel treatment and constitutes further victimization and discrimination,” Mr Gill told the commission.

He said his dismissal was unfair and discriminatory.

The couple said they had problems with the au pair’s performance at work.

They said she “didn’t tell the truth” about her past experiences with babies or children, couldn’t put the baby to sleep, couldn’t cook, and was “often distracted”.

“The Complainant has set out in her detailed statement in her WRC protest form a factual account which the Respondent denies and rejects in its entirety with respect to certain alleged events which she claims occurred on the evening of August 25, 2020” , the couple said. in their submission.

In his decision, arbitrator Jim Dolan said the couple gave “very little or no information” about their version of events that night – but said harassment had a broad definition.

“Only the plaintiff and Mr. B know exactly what happened on the night of August 25, 2020,” Mr. Dolan wrote in his decision. “On a balance of probabilities, I find the evidence submitted by the plaintiff to be more persuasive.”

He found that the young woman was the subject of “harassment and sexual harassment and discrimination” from the family and ordered them to pay her compensation of €9,100.

The au pair had also claimed €1,347.20 under the Payment of Wages Act, with Mr Gill claiming she should have been entitled to a minimum wage of €8.08 per hour depending on her age for a 42.5 hour work week.

The couple had argued they paid pocket money with board and lodging which they valued at between €150 and €250 a month – and said they worked ‘at most’ 30 hours a week.

Mr Dolan said the complaint should have been brought under the National Minimum Wage Act instead of the Payment of Wages Act and dismissed the complaint as unfounded.

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