A hotel has been ordered to pay €10,000 compensation to a woman who was fired one day after she told her boss that she had suffered a miscarriage.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Shay Henry has found that the hotel Duty Manager was discriminated against on the gender ground under the Employment Equality Acts and has ordered the hotel to pay the woman the compensation.
The Duty Manager was sacked by her boss on November 12th 2018 - one day after she told him that she had suffered a miscarriage and that this explained the behaviour over which he had been concerned.
The hotel manager was concerned that she was intoxicated at work.
In his findings, Mr Henry stated that the hotel manager did not adequately investigate the defence put forward that the duty manager had suffered a miscarriage and instead, chose to disbelieve the claim based on previous experience.
Mr Henry stated: “A properly conducted investigation may have resulted in a timely medical opinion, which, if corroborating the complainant’s claim of a miscarriage, would most likely have resulted in her not losing her job.”
Mr Henry further added: "In my view, the failure to adequately investigate the medical issues raised is sufficient prima facie evidence of discrimination on the grounds of gender.”
The woman - represented by McIntyre O’Brien Solicitors - told the WRC hearing that she sent a message to the hotel manager on November 11th 2018 saying that she had suffered from a miscarriage.
She stated that in response, he replied that she had said she was at a party and if she had miscarried he would need proof from a doctor.
The duty manager replied that she did not go to a doctor. The hotel manager told her to return to work the next day.
On her arrival to work she met with the hotel manager and a second employee from accounts.
The hotel manager informed her that she was intoxicated at work at the weekend and that he had no choice but to dismiss her with immediate effect.
The duty manager was in shock and left the hotel. On November 29th the duty manager attended her GP who certified her as having had ‘a probable miscarriage’.
In his findings, Mr Henry stated that the hotel manager in his evidence, confirmed that he had decided to dismiss the duty manager before he met with her.
Mr Henry stated that neither did the hotel manager give the duty manager details of the allegations in advance of the hearing, or afford the complainant an opportunity to be represented at the hearing, and finally, he did not adequately consider the explanation given.
Mr Henry stated: “These are clear breaches of natural justice and the entitlement of the complainant to fair procedures."
Mr Henry stated that in the circumstances where the hotel did not conduct the investigation and disciplinary process in a fair manner he found that the hotel is unable to show that the dismissal was not was not discriminatory and therefore the complainant was discriminated against.
The woman had only commenced work as a Duty Manager in June 2018.
She told the WRC that she completed her work on 9th November 2018 but began to feel ill later that evening. She believes she suffered from a miscarriage.
The Duty Manager attended work on 10th November and she was bleeding severely and was emotional while carrying out her responsibilities.
There was a wedding in the hotel on that day and she did not want to let her employer down. She stated that at one stage, due to bleeding, she had to change her clothes and sit in the car.
When she returned she met her manager asked if she was okay and she replied that she was fine.
The Duty Manager returned to work on November 11th but could not complete her responsibilities and she told her supervisor that she had to go home.
The Duty Manager also sent a message to the manager saying that she was unwell due to having been at a party.
The Duty Manager accepted at the WRC hearing this was wrong information but she did not feel comfortable explaining to him that she was suffering from a miscarriage.
In evidence on behalf of the hotel, it stated that on October 17th the Duty Manager left without notifying anyone and on October 21st the hotel manager met with her concerning this and she claimed she had had her period and needed to change.
The hotel manager believed that this was said to shock him.
At the wedding reception referred to by the Duty Manager, the hotel manager stated that his father said he witnessed the Duty Manager walk into a pole and others said she was giving out free drinks.
The hotel manager was at this stage convinced that the Duty Manager was intoxicated, and he made the decision to dismiss the Duty Manager for that reason.
In response to the Duty Manager’s claim that she was taking strong pain killers which may have caused her to act strangely it was the hotel’s position that the handbook is clear in relation to the use of prescribed drugs while at work.