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Labour Court increases WRC Compensation Award by €14,000 for pregnant employee

On 4th March 2019, the Labour Court increased a WRC award from €6,000 to €20,000 as means of compensation to a pregnant worker who was discriminated against by her employer.

The WRC awarded the complainant €6,000 compensation as the Respondent had discriminated against the Claimant by not offering her the same hours of work on her return from pregnancy related sick leave.

Facts

The Claimant submitted that she was discriminated against on the grounds of gender when her employer reduced her working hours during her pregnancy and her job was advertised while she was on pregnancy related sick leave.

The Claimant announced her pregnancy to her employer in April 2015. On 29th April 2015 the Claimant started a period of pregnancy related sick leave. On 25th July 2015 the Claimant told the Respondent that she would be returning to work from sick leave. Her employer then told her she was not reliable, and in any event she would be commencing maternity leave before Christmas she would have to be replaced and that it was too much hassle.

The Respondent then reduced the Claimant’s working hours to four hours per day. The Respondent  then placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for a part time Stylist/Barber which the Claimant claimed was her position.

The Respondent denied that the Claimant was subject to discrimination. The Respondent stated that at all times the Claimant’s hours were available to her and the Respondent expected her to return to work. The Respondent also denied that the Claimant’s role was advertised.

Decision      

The Labour Court cited Case C-177/88 where the European Court of Justice clarified that as pregnancy is a uniquely female condition, less favourable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy constitutes direct discrimination on the grounds of gender.

The Court outlined that from legislative provision from the European Union it is abundantly clear that women are to be afforded special protection from adverse treatment from the commencement of their pregnancy until the end of her maternity leave. The Court also stated that it is equally clear that the burden is on the employer to prove that the adverse treatment is in no sense whatsoever related to the pregnancy.

In hearing evidence from both parties the Court found that the evidence supplied by the Respondent was unsatisfactory and lacking in candour whereas the Claimant’s evidence was found to be honest and to the best of her recollection.

The Court was satisfied that on 25th July 2015, the Claimant was fit and anxious to return to work. It was also not disputed that the Claimant did not receive her normal hours of work. The Claimant showed the Court text messages exchanged on 29th July, where the Claimant outlined it would be not worth her while and too costly to only attend work for four hours per day. These texts also supported the Claimant’s allegations that the Respondent considered her pregnancy related illness a hassle.

The Court was satisfied that that an inference of discrimination had been made and the onus of proving the contrary shifted to the Respondent. The Court was then fully satisfied that the Respondent had failed to discharge its burden of proof and therefore failed in its appeal.

In increasing the Claimant’s award to €20,000 from €6,000 the Court clarified that the increase in the award was for the effects of the discrimination suffered by the Claimant and not for remuneration.

Link

29th March 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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