By Patrick Markey
An accountant told an employment tribunal recently that she had been forced to leave her job after she was physically sick because she shared an office with a man with a flatulence problem.
The Drogheda woman, 36-year-old Paula Levins, claimed she was constructively dismissed by her former employer, MA Whately & Co., Ardee, although the company denied the charges, complaining she left with five minutes’ notice.
The Drogheda Independent reports that Levins was told she would be sharing an office with a new employee but instead a male colleague with the flatulence problem was put into her office.
"He was inclined to let a lot of flatulence and all the staff were aware of this," she said. She complained repeatedly to her boss, who she said failed to deal with the problem.
"It was very sickening being in an enclosed area and it was inclined to make me sick. I was physically sick on a number of occasions," said Levins, who was pregnant at the time.
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After Christmas the problem got very bad.
"It was frosty and I had to sit in the room all day with the window open in a normally cold room with the heater on."
The tribunal eventually brokered an agreement between the parties.
An Ulster nurse was found guilty of misconduct for telling a patient that her illness was punishment for having been engaged to a Catholic.
Anne Steele, a Born Again Christian from Ballymoney, told the young Prostestant woman who was being treated for severe stomach pains and fainting fits that her medical problems were possibly caused by guilty feelings over the relationship.
The Belfast Telegraph reports also the nurse claimed the woman was possessed by evil spirits. She was cautioned at a hearing of the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing.
Bu the hearing was told that Steele, who is in her 50s, was unlikely to work again as a "hands-on" nurse due to a back injury.
The young woman — referred to as Patient A — said she had been upset by the conversation, which took place in August 1997. Patient A said she agreed to have a chat with Steele and that she told the nurse she was "saved" when she was 13 but was now a "backslider" — someone who no longer attends church.
The nurse claimed that Patient A’s illness may have been caused by "feelings of guilt" over her relationship with a Catholic. But Patient A told the hearing that she did not feel guilty about the relationship. Steele alleged also related a story to her of how a Christian woman she knew had developed breast cancer after a curse was placed on her by a non-Christian work colleague.
Steele’s defense attorney said her had only intended to help the young woman.
Patrick Kelly, the committee’s chairman, said the incident had been an isolated matter and more an error of judgment on Steele’s part rather than a culpable act.