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'Extremely cruel' Host dad asked teen au pair 'if she had any naughty pictures before tickling her'

The Spanish national said she had to resort to staying a hostel after being summarily fired and evicted from the Dublin couple’s home

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Stock photo

A teenage au pair who said her host father made sexual advances towards her and touched her without consent while his wife was away is to be paid over €9,000 for sexual harassment.

The Spanish national said she had to resort to staying a hostel after being summarily fired and evicted from the Dublin couple’s home, after being told the host mother needed to “get over what happened”.

Her representative told the Workplace Relations Commission that the eviction of a young woman “to wander in a city unknown to her at night-time in a pandemic” was “extremely cruel”.

The couple said they deny and reject the complainant’s narrative of the sexual harassment “in its entirety”.

The au pair, who was 18 years old when she was hired by the couple, complained to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Employment Equality Act, alleging she was discriminated against on the grounds of gender, sexually harassed and victimised in August 2020.

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Workplace Relations Commission

Workplace Relations Commission

Workplace Relations Commission

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

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

She arrived to Ireland in July 2020.

On 19 August 2020, Mrs B took the baby for a week’s holiday to Spain and left her husband at home to work, the commission was told.

In a presentation of evidence on behalf of the former au pair, Karl Gill of the Dublin South Citizens’ Information Service submitted that Mr B’s texts to his client became more frequent and after his wife left the country and were more “conversational and chatty” than previous messages about her pay.

“Our client did not initially see anything untoward in this behaviour but in hindsight she now feels this was an attempt from Mr B to flirt or groom her,” he said.

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The texts given in evidence to the commission included a reference to her “energy” and included requests for her to take video calls and explain her whereabouts when she was out late – which the au pair felt was “unnecessary surveillance”.

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

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 “made it clear 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 in the house together, Mr Gill added.

The host father then “placed his hands at her armpits and used his fingers in a tickling fashion, applying pressure to her armpits and sides”, Mr Gill said.

“She said ‘No’ and ‘Stop’ on a number of occasions but Mr B continued attempting to tickle her after she made it clear that she did not consent,” Mr Gill said.

Then Mr B sat next to her on the couch and “began rubbing both her upper legs up and down”, Mr Gill said. “She again said ‘No’ and “Stop’,” 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 her a key to her room. She remained 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 kind of intimate, romantic, emotional or physical interest in him”.

Mr B left for Portugal in early September following a row on Mrs B’s return from Spain, Mr Gill said, which had led to Mrs B phoning the gardaí because she was “clearly in fear”.

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

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

Mrs B told his client: “I think it is for the best because I need to get over what happened between you two," Mr Gill said.

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

On 15 September she reported Mr B to the gardaí.

“Evicting a young woman to wander in a city unknown to her at night time in a pandemic is extremely cruel treatment and is victimisation and further discrimination,” Mr Gill told the commission.

He said her dismissal was unfair and discriminatory.

The couple said they had issues with the au pair’s performance on the job.

They said she “had not been truthful” about having previous experience 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 claim form a factual narrative that the respondent denies and rejects in its entirety in relation to certain alleged events that she says occurred on the evening of the 25th August 2020,” the couple said in their submission.

In his decision, adjudicating officer Jim Dolan said the couple had given “very little or no information” relating to their version of events that night – but said that harassment had a wide definition.

“Only the complainant and Mr B know exactly what happened on the night of 25 August 2020,” wrote adjudicating officer Jim Dolan in his decision. “On the balance of probability, I find the evidence submitted by the complainant to be more compelling.”

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

The au pair had also sought €1,347.20 under the Payment of Wages Act, with Mr Gill arguing that she should have been entitled to a minimum wage of €8.08 per hour based on her age for a working week of €42.5 hours.

The couple had argued they paid pocket money along with board and lodging which they valued at between €150 and €250 per month – and said she worked “at most” 30 hours per week.

Mr Dolan said the complaint should have been submitted under the National Minimum Wage Act instead of the Payment of Wages Act and rejected the claim as not well founded.

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