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WRC Awards €45,000.00 in Discrimination Dismissal Claim on top of Statutory Redundancy Payment Received by Employee

Factual Background

The Complainant commenced employment with the Company (a producer and retailer of specialised pork products) in September 2005, starting as a general operative and before her employment was terminated in May 2019, she held the position of supervisor.

A transfer of undertaking took place in October 2017 from the Complainant’s previous employer to the Respondent.  The Complainant worked a forty-hour week and was in receipt of a gross weekly salary of €576.00.

The Complainant commenced maternity leave in November 2018 and was due to return to work in July 2019. The General Manager for the Respondent contacted the Complainant in May 2019 explaining that he wished to discuss in a meeting with her the current state of the business and mentioned redundancy at that time but expressed a wish to avoid this option. The Complainant received a registered letter the following day setting out that the meeting was to discuss in detail the proposed redundancy.

Following subsequent meetings with the general manager the Complainant was informed that her role was now gone and she was given the option of taking up a lesser role as a general operative or in the alternative redundancy. The new role would be completely different to the position previously held by the Complainant, would be at a substantially reduced salary and on a six month probationary period. The Complainant was eventually made compulsorily redundant. The Complainant subsequently submitted a claim for discriminatory dismissal to the WRC under the Employment Equality Acts.

The Respondent Company submitted while the Complainant was on maternity leave a general review of the planning process took place and areas were identified that required streamlining.

The review took certain of the Complainant’s functions from her role and they were now being carried out by a sister plant. Other sundry tasks completed by the Complainant were distributed to other departments within the Respondent plant. The General Manager confirmed that three new male supervisors had being employed internally while the Complainant was on maternity leave and also confirmed that the Complainant was not notified about these supervisory roles despite the company policy to do so. The Respondent further advised that the Complainant would not have been considered for the supervisory roles, despite one role being given to one of the Complainant’s co-workers. The Respondent confirmed that the Complainant’s role was the only role in that facility that was made redundant.

Decision and Conclusions.

The Adjudicator found that based on the evidence submitted at the hearing the Complainant did not return to the same position following a period of protected maternity leave. She was given the option of lesser role or redundancy. The Adjudicator noted that the Complainant was the only person made redundant during the period of streamlining and as such an inference of

discrimination in the sense that her gender and her maternity leave are within the range of possible reasons why the Respondent chose not to return her to her exact role or a role with the same level of responsibility….

The Adjudicator accepted that the Respondent is entitled to streamline the business however, the Complainant while on maternity leave was not given an opportunity to be part of the decision and was not advised of the new roles being created or given an opportunity to apply for same. The Complainant was merely presented with the new organisational structure as a fait accompli and all attempts to meet and discuss the changes were made after they had been implemented and appointments made.

The Adjudicator found that the Respondent had failed to rebut the inference of discrimination in terms of the Complainant’s dismissal and this failure to be evidence of discrimination on gender contrary to the Employment Equality Acts.

The Adjudicator in awarding €45,000.00 (the equivalent of one and a half years salary) as compensation for breach and infringement of the Complainant’s statutory rights took into account the full context of the case. The Complainant’s long work history and good relationship with her previous employer, who she subsequently secured employment with 4 months after her dismissal and her numerous promotions. The effect on the Complainant arising from her unilateral demotion together with the considerable reduction in salary and subject to a 6 month probationary period, was also considered by the Adjudicator. In addition the Adjudicator noted the Complaint’s commute in her new job now consisted of 2.5 hours daily which also resulted in increased child care costs of €100.00 a week, where previously she was 15 minutes from work. The award was made in addition to the statutory redundancy payment which the Complainant had already received.

Take-away for Employers – This is a clear decision to highlight how important it is to ensure that employees on protected leave should always been included in consultations and information around changes in a business and be notified of all vacant roles becoming available as part of such restructure.

Authors – Anne O’Connell & Ethna Dillon

Link: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2020/may/adj-00022647.html

29th May 2020

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall

Fitzwilliam Place

Dublin 2


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