A medical technology firm has been ordered to pay a sales rep €6,000 after a company director told her that she had "hormones in her head".
In the discrimination case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudication officer Joe Donnelly accepted that the director made that comment to the sales rep after she raised a number of issues over his management style during an earlier work event in Dubai.
A meeting was held between the director and the sales representative to discuss her grievances.
The sales rep told the WRC at the meeting the director remarked that she was like his wife in that “she had hormones in her head” and consequently she might need to take a day off.
At the WRC, the director in evidence denied making this specific remark and stated that he said that the complainant was emotional.
In his findings, however, Mr Donnelly said that he accepted the evidence of the sales rep that the director made a reference to her hormones rather than the suggestion by him that the remark was to the effect that she was emotional.
At her interview for the job in February 2017, the woman said that the director asked her if she was married, did she have children, how many children she had and if she planned to have more children.
After the interview, the sales rep remarked on the “weird” questions that she had been asked to the firm's office manager.
Mr Donnelly noted that in her CV, the sales rep volunteered the information that she had children.
In his findings, Mr Donnelly stated:
Based on the evidence before me I am satisfied that questions were asked at the interview as outlined by the complainant.
The firm in question has a number of international business ventures and was invited to set up a business in Ireland with the intention of manufacturing medical devices for international supply.
At a trade show in Dubai, the sales rep stated that the director engaged in a conversation with her during which she was questioned about personal issues including her husband’s job and whether she owned her house and car.
In response, the director said that during the course of the show he had a general conversation with the complainant during which he had enquired about her family and she had enquired about his family. This, he considered, to be a normal conversation.
Mr Donnelly stated: “It is accepted that a conversation took place at the trade show in Dubai during which the complainant was questioned about her husband, family and ownership of her home. The director characterised this as general conversation.”
In his ruling, Mr Donnelly found the sales rep has established that the remarks which are the subject of her complaint were made and that they give rise to a presumption of discriminatory behaviour.
He stated: “The onus, therefore, shifts to the respondent to prove the contrary. The response of the respondent as outlined does not discharge that onus and therefore I find that the respondent engaged in discriminatory behaviour in relation to the complainant on the grounds of gender and family status on the occasions specified.”
The €6,000 award is in relation to the "hormones in her head" comment and the other discriminatory remarks made by the director to the sales rep.
The worker was dismissed from her post in May 2018 and she claimed that the dismissal was based on discriminatory grounds or that the dismissal was due to penalisation for making a complaint of discrimination.
However, this was rejected by Mr Donnelly after the firm stated that the dismissal was as a result of reducing pay costs as two other members of staff also had their employment terminated for the same reason at the same time.