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June 27, 2003

Deaf man wins his unfair sacking claim

From: Glasgow Evening Times, UK - Jun 27, 2003

A DEAF man fired after cuddling a female colleague has won his unfair sacking claim.

Joey Devlin, a packer with William Grant – Sons Ltd, Distillers, denied he had sexually harassed workmate Michelle Hanlon and said he didn't even understand what harassment meant.

A Glasgow employment tribunal heard Mr Devlin, 63, from Paisley, was sacked after 21 years' service at the whisky bottling hall in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, despite denying he had touched Ms Hanlon's breast.

He wants his job back and giving evidence through an interpreter, he insisted he had never touched her sexually.

He said he cuddled men and women as a friendly gesture.

Mr Devlin agreed he had a warning two years earlier for touching another female colleague's bottom.

He was sacked following a complaint from Ms Hanlon in February 2001 that he kept touching her even after she had told him to stop it. She claimed he touched her breast on two occasions when he cuddled her.

Mr Devlin said he did not understand the meaning of the word harassment and was shocked at the accusation and his dismissal.

The company said it was conscious of Mr Devlin's communication difficulties throughout the disciplinary procedure and had been at pains to overcome them.

But the tribunal ruled the distillers were wrong to attach any weight to the previous warning, which had long expired.

A firm clarification to Mr Devlin that he was not to touch Ms Hanlon would have sufficed.

The case was continued but the tribunal said Mr Devlin was partly to blame and this could have a bearing on his bid for reinstatement.

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