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Ending Discriminatory Dismissal: Protecting Employee Rights

A recent adjudication at the WRC in Dublin heard that a line cook experienced a discriminatory dismissal.

In January 2021, Ms Barrett was working at a fast food outlet in a part-time capacity as a line cook.

Ms Barrett told her employer that she was pregnant and on the following day, Ms Barrett was admitted to hospital with severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. When she returned to work, she undertook her job as best as she could and claimed that her employer was aware of the difficulties the pregnancy was causing her.

The adjudicating officer heard that the complainant was ‘vomiting up to 20 times a day, losing weight and severely dehydrated.’ When she endeavoured to discuss the difficulties she was having in work, she alleged that the line manager and business co-owner told her she was “pregnant and not disabled” and expected her to continue to do her work as normal.

The AO stated that in employment law, “pregnant women are a particularly protected class of person legally, in recognition of the vulnerability – including economic vulnerability – which pregnancy and its attendant circumstances can bring”.

Ms Barrett continued to be ill from her pregnancy and advised her employer that she would not be able to attend work. When Ms Barrett asked why she was removed from the roster, her employer allegedly told her to “just be quiet.”

Ms Barrett was asked if there were any efforts made to make her feel supported during the pregnancy at work, she said ‘No. Absolutely not.’

Ms Barrett alleged that the respondent told her anecdotes about when she was pregnant and told her that she ‘worked up until the day before she gave birth’ and then ‘put the buggy in the back of the shop when her children were small, and worked away.’

Ms Barrett’s doctor certified her unfit for work and Ms Barrett texted her employer the following day that she would not be attending work. In response, her bosses dismissed her via an email. In response, Ms Barrett told her former bosses “I think that’s really unfair. I have done my best considering how sick I have been and have a right to take sick days. I understand that it is difficult for you with a lack of staff but the responsibility to find cover does not fall on me”.

There was no appearance at the hearing on behalf of the employer. The respondent was ordered to pay €16,000 for discriminatory dismissal on the grounds of gender.

This case highlights the obligation of the employer to ensure that the work environment is free from all forms of discrimination.

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