Beauty therapist loses in claim that he was let go from salon because he is a man

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A male beauty therapist who failed to keep a job at a Dublin beauty salon has lost his discrimination claim that he was let go because he is a man.

In the case, Niall Fitzgerald commenced work at MudPie Beauty Cottage at Dundrum Town Centre last June but was let go on his sixth day after his nail work wasn’t deemed up to standard.

The multi-award winning beauty salon is owned and operated by one of Ireland’s best known models, Sara Kavanagh and at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing into the case, the salon absolutely refuted the proposition that Mr Fitzgerald’s employment was terminated due to him being a man.

Mr Fitzgerald brought his unsuccessful discrimination case under the Employment Equality Acts and he claimed that he was indirectly discriminated against by Mudpie Beauty Cottage as it didn't make allowance for the fact that as a man, he would not be as familiar with certain applications he believes women perform as a matter of course.

Mudpie Beauty Cottage told the hearing that it was a commercial decision in letting Mr Fitzgerald go as his experience was not a match for the particularly fast paced salon.

Mr Fitzgerald told the hearing that it was “totally unfair” to give him just six days before terminating his position stating that he is a beauty therapist “whose expertise had not even been tapped into”.

Mr Fitzgerald told the hearing that he didn’t after all apply for the position of nail technician.

Mr Fitzgerald also told the hearing that his nail standard was perfectly good and emphasised that his real skill-set lay in facials and skin treatments.

He further argued that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his gender as it was unfair of Ms Kavanagh to expect him to have an enhanced skill for manicures and shellac applications in circumstances where he was a man and therefore would not have been self-administering files and polishes.

However, the salon pointed out that these are professional qualifications obtained through skill and diligence and at the outset of the interview process for the job, the salon made it clear to Mr Fitzgerald that nails, manicures and shellac treatments would have to be part of his skillset if Mr Fitzgerald was to achieve a position with them.

Mr Fitzgerald assured the salon that he was good and experienced in this area though he admitted to not being too confident with French manicures.

At hearing, the salon stressed the importance of any of its therapists to be competent in nail care when showing that nail treatments are by far the most commonly sought treatment in the salon with up to 1,900 treatments in any six month period.

The WRC report records that Mr Fitzgerald is a recently graduated Beauty therapist, has the highest level of accreditation and was the only male out of 18 to apply for a post at the salon.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath said that judging by the documented exchange with Ms Kavanagh, Mr Fitzgerald’s gender made him a more exciting candidate for the job.

Ms McGrath reported that during the interview process, the job interviewers were very taken with Mr Fitzgerald who had a good manner and a real interest in the product and operation of beauty therapies.

The salon assessed the other competencies Mr Fitzgerald had and deemed him to be a good fit for the salon and were willing to give him a position.

Mr Fitzgerald was not designated a senior therapist and was on a rate of pay of about €11 per hour.

However, problems quickly emerged during Mr Fitzgerald’s induction days and salon staff told the WRC hearing that the work being performed by Mr Fitzgerald was not up to scratch and was taking too long.

In the course of the next few days, Mr Fitzgerald was provided with some limited opportunity to upskill himself in the area of the application of shellac and manicures.

However, his former employer told the hearing that Mr Fitzgerald simply did not meet the minimum standard required to be allowed perform unsupervised nail treatments.

In her findings, Ms McGrath said that she accepted that MudPie Beauty Cottage needed to assess Mr Fitzgerald in the area most lucrative to the business - nails - before considering his suitability for other areas further down the line.

By June 27 last, the salon had assessed that whilst Mr Fitzgerald had shown improvement, the salon could not afford the time required to bring him up to the standard required.

It stated that there was simply too much training required to bring him up to that standard and he was let go.

The salon denied that ending Mr Fitzgerald’s employment had anything to do with him being a man citing many occasions where it had previously let go Beauty Therapists that weren’t performing good enough work quickly enough.

Ms McGrath stated that Mr Fitzgerald very ably represented himself at the hearing.

However, throwing out Mr Fitzgerald’s discrimination claim, Ms McGrath said that she was bound to conclude that Mr Fitzgerald has not established facts which give rise to the presumption of discrimination on the part of MudPie Beauty Cottage Ltd.

Mudpie Beauty Cottage has been contacted for comment on the outcome of the case.

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