Woman who suffered miscarriage weeks after dismissal awarded €25,000

Woman who suffered miscarriage weeks after dismissal awarded €25,000
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A deputy hotel General Manager (GM) suffered a miscarriage weeks after being unfairly dismissed because she was pregnant.

In the case, the woman was dismissed by her employer on 21 September 2018 - nine days after she told her bosses that she was pregnant.

The decision to dismiss was upheld internally on 18 October and the woman received her P45 on 6 November.

However, according to her case for unfair dismissal due to pregnancy at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), “to her great distress the complainant suffered from a miscarriage” on December 10, 2018.

The former deputy GM argued that the hotel’s decision “to dismiss her without merit and as a result of her pregnancy negatively contributed to her situation”.

The WRC hearing was told that the woman became pregnant again this year.

In her findings after a two day hearing into the case, WRC Adjudication Officer, Ewa Sobanska has found that the woman was unfairly dismissed due to pregnancy and has told the hotel to pay the woman €25,000.

Ms Sobanska stated that she found it “difficult to see any justification for the dismissal”.

Accordingly, I find that the Complainant’s dismissal resulted wholly or mainly from her pregnancy.

Ms Sobanska has also ordered the employer to pay the former deputy GM an additional €2,085 for one other workplace-related breach.

Ms Sobanska stated that the hotel “struggled to find some justification for this abrupt dismissal”.

Counsel for the deputy GM told the WRC hearing that “the facts of this case speak for themselves”.

She stated: “The decision to dismiss the Complainant on unjustified grounds was made by senior management after being informed of her pregnancy.”

Counsel also argued that “this decision is evident from the manner the sham disciplinary meeting took place without any regard for the significant workplace pressures the complainant was under together with her personal circumstances”.

Counsel stated that the decision to dismiss was premeditated and at a very delicate time in the complainant's life.

The deputy GM commenced work with the hotel in November 2017 and the hotel opened in December 2017 after an extensive refurbishment.

In evidence, the former deputy GM told the WRC hearing that she put her heart and soul into her work and worked hard.

The woman stated that at a meeting with her employer on September 20 a pre-prepared dismissal letter was read out.

She stated that it all seemed to happen all of a sudden and that she was genuinely shocked.

The employer refuted the claim was the dismissal was due to the woman’s pregnancy.

The hotel argued that the dismissal was fair and in line with its disciplinary procedures.

The hotel company claimed that the dismissal was due to a serious breach of Health & Safety standards and failure to perform the job function to a competent level.

The owner of the hotel gave evidence at the hearing to say that he had no role in the day to day running of the business and lives abroad.

Commenting on his evidence, Ms Sobanska stated that the owner told the hearing “I wouldn’t have any idea how the Complainant was performing” and yet, he “felt the Complainant was incapable and did not have the skill to be the Deputy GM.”

In her findings, Ms Sobanska stated: “None of the other managers, including the former GM and the new GM who replaced him were held accountable for the failures of the business.

Employment law expert, solicitor, Richard Grogan stated the issue of pregnancy dismissal “is reprehensible. To me, it is the most egregious breach of employment law as you are dismissing someone who is in a particularly vulnerable situation.”

Mr Grogan - who was not involved in the case - stated today: “The woman is dismissed not because she did anything wrong, but because she is pregnant.”

Mr Grogan stated that the number of pregnancy dismissal claims are on the increase “but I don’t believe that the number of pregnancy-related dismissals are on the increase. I believe that women are more likely to bring a claim but from our own experience the number of pregnancy-related cases going to hearing is around 5% and the remainder are settled.”

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