Pregnant woman sacked after morning-sickness absences awarded €16,140

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A telecommunications firm sacked a pregnant woman in spite of her pleas that her absences from work were due to her suffering morning sickness.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the telecommunications company to pay the woman €16,460 after finding that it discriminated against her on the grounds of her being pregnant when dismissing her.

The woman told the WRC hearing that she was “deeply hurt, upset, and shocked” at the manner in which the company dealt with her.

The woman commenced working as a retail sales consultant at the firm’s store in the west of the country on December 18, 2017, after relocating from Dublin for the job.

On December 22, 2017, the worker fell ill at work and was admitted to hospital the same day after a referral from her GP.

Six days later, the woman - earning €9.45 an hour - returned to work and told her immediate boss that her illness was due to her being 12 weeks pregnant. The woman had lost 10kg in weight at the start of her ‘complicated’ pregnancy.

The woman missed more days in January 2018 due to morning sickness and returned to work on January 20, 2018, as she was feeling better and eager to get back to work.

However, on January 23, 2018, the company’s Area Manager arrived at the store to tell the woman that it was time for her Probation Review.

In the review, the Area Manager raised one instance where the employee didn’t wear her uniform and he also raised the matter of her accessing unauthorised websites while working.

The Area Manager then pointed out the dates on which she was absent on certified sick-leave and then abruptly concluded the meeting by saying:

“Your performance has failed so this is your last day”.

The worker pleaded with the Area Manager that the certified sick leave was due to her suffering from morning sickness in the first trimester of her pregnancy.

She explained that she should not require as many sick days once she progressed past the difficult early stage of her pregnancy.

However, she said that the Area Manager did not give this any consideration.

The woman claimed that her dismissal was due to her being pregnant.

The woman stated that the other issues raised were both trivial and irrelevant and appear to have been manufactured in order to facilitate her immediate dismissal.

In its submission to the WRC, the firm denied that the worker had been discriminated against.

The firm stated that the worker’s performance fell below the required standards and she was given comprehensive feedback at the probation review.

The firm stated that a view was taken that she was not showing progression within the role and as she did not show any enthusiasm to learn about any aspect of the role, it was better to terminate the probation.

The firm employs over 100 staff and stated that the worker was not negatively treated because she was pregnant.

The firm pointed out that it has a maternity leave policy in place and is fully supportive of any colleagues that avail of this leave.

The firm stated there are five colleagues currently on maternity leave with a further five due to commence leave shortly.

In her findings, WRC Adjudication Officer Emer O’Shea stated that the worker gave credible and consistent evidence denying any performance issues.

Ms O’Shea stated that no direct evidence was provided by the worker’s line managers or by the decision-makers in the dismissal process.

Ms O’Shea found that the employer has failed to rebut the claimant’s prima facie case for discrimination.

Along with ordering the firm to pay the €16,460 to the ex-worker, Ms O’Shea is also requiring the firm to review with its Human Resources (HR) policies to ensure that they comply with the Employment Equality Act.

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