The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered a horse product sales company pay an unfairly dismissed pregnant international sales manager €56,000 for her unfair dismissal.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Hugh Lonsdale, found that the woman’s pregnancy didn’t play a role in her employer's decision to unfairly dismiss her but stated that her pregnancy contributed to the delay in her finding alternative employment.
The horse product sales company told the woman on October 3, 2018, that her position was at risk of redundancy.
However, solicitors for the international sales manager told the employer that the redundancy had been pre-determined and the process was a “charade and a sham”.
On November 5, the company wrote to the sales manager confirming her position was to be made redundant and issued her with one month’s notice and advised her that new Regional Management positions were available for her to consider.
On November 13, the sales manager accepted a French-based position offered by the company.
The company wrote again on November 27 and told the sales manager if she would not meet with the company the following day and sign documents relating to her new post “this will be taken as your rejection of this role and may be treated as your resignation from the company”.
This was extended and on December 3, the company asked the sales manager for a response by close of business on December 4.
As the sales manager did not reply the company terminated her employment on the grounds of redundancy on December 5, 2018.
Mr Lonsdale said that the timeline concerned was “unrealistic for someone to consider a new job in a different country, particularly at a time when she was pregnant and uncertain of her maternity leave entitlements and of the full implications of the employment contract”.
Mr Lonsdale found that the sales manager was only given nine days to fully consider this new position in a different country before her employment was terminated.
He stated that the sales manager was still actively interested in this role but was not given sufficient time to get a French lawyer to advise her on the new contract.
Mr Lonsdale said that he found that the horse product sales company did not exhaust the alternatives to dismiss and as such did not have reasonable cause to dismiss the complainant at that time.
He said: “This amounts to an unfair dismissal.”
The woman told the WRC that she was earning a total of €85,000 made up of a basic salary of €70,000 and a sales related bonus of €15,000.
She said that she suffered a loss of income from December 2018 to June 2019, which amounts to €78,000.
She submitted evidence that she applied for a number of positions and stated that she is sure that her pregnancy was a factor in not being successful; until she started a new job in November 2019.