€50,000 for woman fired after 33 years
Published 20/09/2011 | 05:00
A LONE female manager who was sacked by new management after 33 years with a farming co-operative has been awarded €50,000 in compensation.
The Equality Tribunal last month ordered Connacht Gold Cooperative Society Ltd to pay former store manager Eithne McDermott €40,000 in compensation for discriminatory treatment and €10,000 in compensation for harassment.
It found the co-op discriminated against her on the basis of gender and age.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal also ordered the same company to pay Mrs McDermott €70,000 in compensation in July 2009 after finding that she had been unfairly dismissed.
Mrs McDermott (55), a married mother of three, said she was delighted by the ruling but angry that she had to turn to the tribunals for redress in the first place, noting she had paid about €40,000 in legal fees to date.
"I've never done a thing wrong," she told the Irish Independent last night. "There was never a blot on my copy book. Yet from the day they took over I was targeted. It was a nightmare. The disruption it caused to the house is unbelievable."
Mrs McDermott was promoted to branch manager of the Kiltogher Co-op in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, after joining the co-op in 1974.
She was the co-op's only female manager until it merged with NCF Cooperative in 2000 to form what is now Connacht Gold Cooperative Society. She was dismissed from the company in July 2007.
Although she became one of three female managers following the merger, she told the tribunal that she "got the distinct impression that the new management wanted to remove her . . . because she was a woman".
The tribunal heard that Mrs McDermott was subjected to an ongoing campaign of bullying in which she felt "pressurised and intimidated" by senior managers.
She was told she would have to work six days a week, despite previous family commitments, and ordered to come up with a sales plan for the store even though no other branch manager was asked to do so.
The tribunal also heard that sales figures for her store were submitted by management that skewed actual sales growth to look like losses when expenses such as transport costs and wages were "charged by management to her branch which were not incurred".
It also heard that a delivery person for the co-op was ordered by senior managers not to deliver to her branch. She referred the matter to the company's general manager, who told her it was her problem.
She was subsequently hospitalised due to a stress-related illness, but was told not to come back to work and was formally dismissed by the company for poor performance. A male manager was then hired as her replacement.
Witnesses, including a fellow female manager who took a voluntary redundancy, told the tribunal that she also felt that a senior manager at the company "regarded the female managers as the weaker sex".
The company claimed "it was absurd to suggest that the complainant was discriminated against on the gender ground" and was trying to get Mrs McDermott to improve her performance because she was underperforming.
Officials from the company did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. However, the company has submitted an appeal of the decision.