RTÉ newsreader claims €300,000 in damages over sexual harassment caused by inappropriate texts from an elderly colleague

A former RTÉ news anchor who was sexually harassed by inappropriate messages from a senior editor just 10 days before her planned wedding is demanding damages of up to €300,000 over the channel’s handling of the matter.

asia Czernik has complained to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Employment Equality Act 1999, alleging that RTÉ broke the law by refusing to share with it the disciplinary sanction imposed on night-shift newscaster Noel Fogarty, who died in the was released last September.

His release came on the basis of a finding that Ms Czernik had been sexually harassed through a series of text messages, emails and attempted phone calls from Friday 18 to Monday 21 June that same year, the court was told.

“My house and my bedroom are open to you,” said one, while another offered Ms. Czernik a spare key.

“That was ten days before their wedding,” her attorney, Barry Crushell, told the tribunal.

After bringing the texts to the attention of her line manager, Paul Ferris, Mr Fogarty was suspended pending investigation and Ms Czernik was told she did not have to work with him, the court heard.

Investigators found the messages “were intrusive, invasive, unwelcome and unwanted, both in their content and in their persistence,” according to the report.

The complainant gave as evidence that she was satisfied with the report, but that at the time she had not been made aware of any disciplinary proceedings against Mr Fogarty.

“I only found out exactly what happened from the last article in the press. It was never entirely clear to me what happened to him in relation to his work – whether he was suspended or whatever,” Ms Czernik said.

“I know it’s hard to understand [but] If you are in such a situation, you need very clear information,” she said.

She added that in later meetings she raised concerns about security arrangements for the night shift on the RTÉ campus, which she said had “many ingress and egress.”

Tanya McNulty, Head of Human Resources at RTÉ News and Current Affairs, said in her statement that Mr Fogarty was instructed from the start of his suspension not to contact Ms Czernik, either directly or through another colleague.

“We had removed his too [security] Tag access, so he didn’t have direct access to buildings on RTÉ’s premises,” she said.

She said there had been a series of “check-in” meetings with Ms Czernik going into autumn 2021 after the report was released and Mr Fogarty appealed his sacking.

Ms McNulty said that at the time of a meeting in mid-October “procedures were pending” preventing her from providing Ms Czernik with information on the outcome of the matter.

She said she, Mr. Ferris, “could definitely be that [Mr Fogarty] was no longer employed by RTÉ” before a further check-in meeting in December of the same year attended by the applicant’s lawyer, she added.

Mr Crushell submitted that the notes taken at those meetings were not forwarded as minutes to his client for comment.

Ms McNulty said she was “surprised” by Ms Czernik’s resignation the following March.

“She is a very valued employee, a very valued colleague who has had very good relationships with her line manager,” she said.

She went on to testify in the RTÉ editorial office about safety precautions.

On cross-examination by Mr Crushell, she accepted that Ms Czernik had said she had found it difficult to be on the RTÉ campus at night following the harassment.

Upon further questioning by the assessing officer, Maria Kelly, Ms McNulty said that consideration had been given to putting the complainant on a daily schedule, but that management “never had an opportunity to have that discussion” with Ms Czernik.

“In terms of the human element, the engagement, this is where RTÉ has ​​failed to do its due diligence,” Mr. Crushell said.

“We would argue that victims of sexual harassment have a right to experience the consequences that a harasser faces,” he said.

He said the channel was left with a conflict between the privacy rights of the man who was being disciplined over the lyrics and his client’s “right to shut down”.

He added that information about the sanction imposed could be given on the understanding that it could still be challenged at his client’s request.

“This is a claim by Ms Czernik for €300,000 in compensation, which goes well beyond jurisdiction. It’s a claim that must fail,” said Mairead McKenna SC, who performed for the channel.

Ms McKenna said RTÉ’s human resources officer was “subtle in her communication” with the complainant at the December meeting, when she said the perpetrator no longer worked for RTÉ.

The lawyer argued that the applicant’s lawyer, who the court heard had attended that meeting, should have been able to ‘read between the lines’ and advise his client on the situation.

She said Mr Fogarty is entitled to seek proceedings and to appeal.

She said Mr Ferris and Ms McNulty “acted in an exemplary manner and could not be criticised” and urged the sentencing officer to determine that RTÉ had made a defense within the law.

Adjudicing Officer Maria Kelly closed the hearing and said she will communicate her decision to the parties in due course.

Last month, Mr Fogarty withdrew a complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 challenging his dismissal for gross misconduct after the texts were read at the hearing by Inquiry Chair Sarah Daly BL.

She indicated that Mr Fogarty admitted to broadcasting the news and that he was “drunk” to many of them due to his alcohol addiction.

Ms Daly added that both Mr Fogarty and Ms Czernik had fully accepted the findings of a draft report which found sexual harassment and that this would then be the final report without revision.

After a pause in Ms Daly’s testimony, Mr Fogarty addressed the tribunal, saying he found the procedure “very stressful” and announced he was withdrawing his lawsuit.

https://www.independent.ie/news/rte-newsreader-seeks-300000-damages-over-sexual-harassment-by-inappropriate-texts-from-senior-colleague-42133725.html RTÉ newsreader claims €300,000 in damages over sexual harassment caused by inappropriate texts from an elderly colleague

Fry Electronics Team

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