Workplace Relations Commission: Bank manager who complained of ‘men’s club’ at organisation awarded €7,500



Workplace Relations Commission
Workplace Relations Commission

A line manager at a bank has been awarded €7,500 in compensation for the organisation’s failure to properly address a formal grievance she raised about being undermined in her ability to manage a new employee.

Stating that the 15-month delay in dealing with the formal grievance had exacerbated the complainant’s situation, Adjudication Officer Valerie Murtagh also recommended that the bank should engage in discussions with the Financial Services Union to improve the culture within the organisation which had been described as a “men’s club”.

Background

The complainant has been employed as a line manager at with the respondent, a bank, since October 2015.

In December 2017, the complainant raised a formal grievance, complaining that “her line manager and her line manager’s manager had prevented her from adhering to the [bank’s] probation policy when managing one of her direct reports” which had recommended extending the probation period of a specific member of her team. She felt as though she had been “undermined and was not empowered to carry out her role as a line manager”, and that management had mishandled the probationary policy.

The first two stages of the bank’s grievance process were not completed until October 2018. The complainant then appealed to the third stage, an independent third party review, which took a further eight weeks to arrange. In totality. The grievance process took from December 2017 to January 2019 to conclude, and she was not informed that the matter had concluded until she prompted HR in March 2019.

In May 2019, the complainant received the findings of the process, which she said outlined “actions at an organisational level not all directly linked to the findings”. She said that no consultation occurred to try to resolve the matters she raised, and that she lost confidence in the bank’s commitment to resolution. Furthermore, the independent third party review partially upheld her complaint, but the issues raised persist without intervention “due to the direct actions of management” and her professional credibility is consistently undermined.

The report also confirmed that there had been a “vexatious claim” of bullying made against the complainant which had “no real basis”. In relation to this vexatious claim against her, the complainant had not been afforded a right of reply or to defend herself, which she stated was in breach of the organisation’s Bullying and Harassment Policy. 

Men’s club culture in the organisation

In March 2019, the complainant submitted her complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission seeking adjudication under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969

The complainant asserted that there was a “boy’s/men’s club” culture in the organisation, and that “despite detailed consistent reports, evidence and corroborating views by other female senior colleagues, the senior male managers sided with and favoured the “views” of a new male employee”.

The complainant said that the continued lack of action in relation to her grievance had significant impact on her and added to the mismanagement of the original grievance she raised. She also submitted that she had been treated as though the process was a disciplinary hearing.

She said that, as a result of speaking out, she experienced “a toxic environment of fear, fostered by a sense of entitlement and lack of accountability at senior levels”. As a result, she suffered humiliation and confidence issues, and was diagnosed with panic attacks and anxiety which her doctor said was a direct result of the situation that occurred.

The complainant said that her ability to progress her career within the bank was negatively impacted by the process in that her reputation was tainted, she was overlooked for internal opportunities, and that support for further education had been removed.

In the Workplace Relations Commission, the Financial Services Union asserted that “employees should freely and safely be in a position to report issues without any adverse consequences with confidence that concerns will be listened to and acted upon”.

Well-founded grievance

Adjudication Officer Murtagh found that the complainant had a well-founded grievance. She said that the = formal grievance to management about the complainant’s treatment had been poorly handled, and that the “delay and tardiness… in dealing with her complaint, including the finalisation of an outcome to her complaint, exacerbated the situation”.

Consequently, Adjudication Officer Murtagh recommended:

  1. Union and management engage in discussions with a view to making such adjustments that are necessary to improve the culture within the respondent organisation.
  2. The respondent pay the complainant €7,500 in financial compensation for its failures in the manner in which it handled her complaint and the tardiness in which it progressed her grievance.

© Irish Legal News Ltd 2019



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