Car dealer to pay €72k over unfair dismissal

One of Tipperary’s best known car dealership, which is owned by a businessman who has campaigned against bullying, has been ordered to pay €72,000 to a former employee over its “wholly unacceptable” treatment of her during her pregnancy.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal heard evidence that Brian Mordaunt and Sons, based at Davis Rd, Clonmel, had asked the claimant to compromise her professional ethics over the treatment of Vat liabilities on repossessed vehicles.

The tribunal said it was reasonable that the claimant, Jennifer Beary of Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary, had left her job at the car dealership in light of the treatment she had received at the hands of her employer.

The company failed to appear at a public hearing of the unfair dismissal case held in Clonmel last month, despite being formally notified of the date.

The tribunal said Ms Beary was treated in a wholly unacceptable manner in relation to her pregnancy and statutory maternity entitlements. It was satisfied that the company had been unhappy about her pregnancy and her consequent unavailability for work

It heard Ms Beary’s workload was increased considerably during her pregnancy and she had been informed that the company would need to shorten her maternity entitlement or work from home during her maternity leave.

Ms Beary gave evidence that while she was in hospital in May 2010 due to a serious bleed, she was inundated with texts and emails from her employer. On being discharged, she was collected from hospital and brought directly to her workplace.

After returning to work following the stillbirth of her baby in July 2010, Ms Beary was subjected to unacceptable comments and treatment described as “indecent”.

Mordaunts also insisted she return to work within a fortnight after the baby’s death on the understanding that it would be on a part-time basis until she felt able to cope. However, a week later the company terminated such an arrangement and demanded she return on a full-time basis.

“In these actions by the company there appears to have been a total disregard for the claimant’s well-being,” said the tribunal.

It noted that mothers of stillborn babies delivered after the 24th week of pregnancy are entitled to 18 weeks’ maternity leave.

The tribunal was told that Ms Beary accidentally overheard a phone conversation in Jul 2010 which suggested the company had plans to replace her. A director, George Mordaunt, subsequently refused to discuss the issue with her.

Mr Mordaunt, is a motivational speaker and author of Shepherd’s Pie, which detailed the painful account of the company’s financial struggles during the recession, as well as how he stood up to bullying by bankers.

The Mordaunt group, a family-run car dealership, is celebrating 30 years in business this year, although it no longer holds any new car franchise.

The tribunal found Ms Beary was unfairly dismissed by Mordaunts based on her uncontested evidence.

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