The Labour Court has ordered a Subway franchise to pay €10,000 to a former employee who, it found, was the victim of unlawful discrimination, victimisation, and dismissal because of her pregnancy.
Sandra Gegeckiene was initially employed as a trainee manager and subsequently as a “sandwich artist” by the franchise operator BT Ward in September, 2014.
Initially, she was employed on a three-month trial contract during which, in October 2014, she told her employer she was pregnant. When the three-month trial ended, it was followed by a further six-month trial contract. She was then dismissed in May 2015.
Ms Gegeckiene’s evidence was that she requested paid time off for hospital appointments related to her pregnancy. She said the company refused her request.
She said she began working on a seven-hour contract in September 2014. She went through a period of training and during that time was normally rostered for 30 hours’ work per week. She said after she told her employer of her pregnancy and asked for the paid time off for hospital visits, her hours were reduced to seven per week and that she was confined to weekend shifts. She said when the six-month trial contract ended she was dismissed without reason.
BT Ward’s evidence was that Ms Gegeckiene was not refused time off for doctors’ visits, but it understood she was seeking to have her GP fees paid by the company and it refused that request. It said that when it realised she was seeking time off for hospital visits it immediately told her she would be accommodated.
The company said that the complainant’s training period involved her working longer hours than the seven set out in the contract but when her training ended she reverted, at her request, to working when there was another worker on duty which only occurred at weekends. She was rostered to work her contract hours on Saturday. The company said it received complaints about Ms Gegeckiene’s work from customers and fellow workers. As a result, she was not offered extra shifts as such shifts were reserved for and allocated to better workers.
It said had she not been pregnant it would have terminated her employment in December, but it feared it could not dismiss a pregnant worker and so extended her contract for a further six months. The court found:
“The court, taking all the evidence into consideration, finds that the respondent wanted to terminate the complainant’s employment because of both her pregnancy and her request for paid time off. It decided to reduce her hours, extend her probation, and thereafter dismiss her under the guise of not renewing a fixed-term contract of employment. The court finds that this was no more than a device to set its decision to dismiss the complainant in the artificial context of not renewing her fixed-term contract of employment.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved