A pharmacy owner has been ordered to pay €40,000 to a pharmacy technician for unfairly dismissing her over her not disclosing that she was five months pregnant at job interview.
The woman sat for the job interview on November 6, 2018, commenced working for the pharmacy on November 19 and then told her employer on December 8 that she was 25 weeks pregnant.
The expectant mother was sacked on January 19 after the pharmacy owner told that her that he was deeply hurt over her failure to disclose her pregnancy and that he had decided to let her go.
In the letter of dismissal, it expressed the employer’s “deep hurt and dissatisfaction over the complainant’s failure to disclose that she was circa five to six months pregnant when she applied for the position”.
The employer alleged that it was “a deceitful act”.
However, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Marguerite Buckley stated that the technician “had no obligation to disclose her pregnancy to the respondent when she applied for a job”.
Ms Buckley stated she was presented with what can only be only described “as a most judgemental letter” from the employer setting out the grounds for the termination of the technician’s employment.
Ms Buckley stated that reading the employer’s letter on an objective basis “I cannot agree with any of his submissions...Therefore, in all aspects, I prefer the evidence of the complainant”.
Ms Buckley further stated that the employer claimed that it was not the pregnancy, but the deception and the acts and words used to achieve it, that was the issue.
She stated: “I find that you cannot separate the two. It is clear that reason for the complainant’s dismissal was related to her pregnancy.”
In the letter, the employer stated that the employee’s revelation in December that she was pregnant came as “a shock and an insult”.
In the letter, the employer questioned the complainant’s trustworthiness and honesty.
He stated that her actions illustrated to him that she would make a decision based on her own requirements and disregard those of others including the pharmacy business.
The letter stated that he tried over the past month or so to disregard the “foul play”, to try and forget the incidents and to give the complainant a “fresh chance”.
The letter, however, stated that they proved impossible for him to overcome.
He stated that he was unable to dislodge the issues from his mind.
He stated that he failed to connect with her to the level he did with his other staff.
He believed this was due to “the deep hurt he felt at her deceit”.
The letter stated that after a short discussion regarding work practices and experience, he felt he had no choice but to terminate her employment.
The woman’s salary was €28,184 and Ms Buckley has awarded her of 76 weeks remuneration amounting to €40,000 - the maximum the WRC could have awarded was 104 weeks salary.
The technician told the WRC that she was in complete shock when told of her dismissal considering it was almost six weeks since she had notified her boss of her pregnancy.
She told the WRC that she was unable to return to pharmacy work due to her experience with the employer and decided to take a total change in her career.
She said that the whole experience with the employer had left a negative mark on her.
The pharmacy owner told the WRC that his was an independent pharmacy with an exemplary record with his staff.
He employed seven people. He described his pharmacy as friendly, caring and empathetic. He explained how his team was wonderful to work with, had great compassion and positivity and had been awarded a national award.
The employer refuted the description that he was extremely angry when he was advised of the pregnancy.
He stated the fact that the complainant withheld the disclosure of her pregnancy to him was “disappointing”.