Estate agent 'bullied into quitting' after maternity leave
Tribunal hears unfair dismissal claim
Published 09/06/2011 | 05:00
THE former director of a large estate agent has claimed she was "bullied and harassed" into resigning from the company after she returned from maternity leave.
Ruth Maguire (41), from Bray, Co Wicklow, has taken a case for constructive dismissal against Sherry FitzGerald -- one of the largest estate agents in the country.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal was told yesterday that Mrs Maguire was asked to take a year's unpaid leave to cut costs when she returned from maternity leave in November 2008.
When the mother of three refused, she was removed from her position as head of the firm's profitable Bray branch against her will, it was claimed.
Instead, she alleged that she was forced to accept a "demotion" to the struggling Greystones office in Co Wicklow, leading to a pay cut of around €16,800 a year, owing to lost commissions.
Six months after she returned to work from maternity leave Mrs Maguire decided she had endured enough confrontation and humiliation and made the decision to resign from the company.
By that point Mrs Maguire had worked for the company for 17 years -- having been appointed as one of 12 directors in July 2006.
Counsel for Sherry FitzGerald claimed that Mrs Maguire eventually left in April 2009 on good terms with the company and that any problems she had on her earlier return from maternity leave were tackled.
The firm argued that Mrs Maguire had eventually agreed to move to Greystones and that any subsequent problems were dealt with agreeably.
The company rejected allegations that her old post was filled by a junior member and that she was then "bullied" into accepting the loss of key staff at her new branch.
Mrs Maguire alleged that assurances she would return to her previous position with responsibility for both branches were broken and that she had received an "insulting" email from the new manager of the Bray office.
She claimed she had constant nightmares and suffered health problems due to the stress.
Mrs Maguire further alleged that on one occasion she was told to go on a training course where she was publicly humiliated by a regional manager because she was "unfamiliar" with the market following her maternity leave.
Regional director Mary Dillon denied that she had "cut down" Mrs Maguire at the meeting and denied that it contained mostly junior staff members.
However, she agreed that she had no memory of a director of the company being "forced" to accept a new post after returning from maternity leave.
The HR manager with the company, Collette Cotter, denied that she had dealt inadequately with concerns that had been raised by Mrs Maguire.
Counsel for the company pointed out that Mrs Maguire had accepted the gift of a painting, had a night out for drinks and a leaving dinner upon her resignation.
The case continues today.