State body loses case over sacked pregnant worker
A state body set up to protect the vulnerable was among the employers taken to task last year for sacking a worker because she was pregnant.
The Equality Tribunal ordered the Legal Aid Board to pay clerical worker Bernadette McGloin €15,000 after it refused to renew her contract.
The Legal Aid Board was found to have dismissed the fixed-contract employee and recruited a replacement worker because she was hospitalised for a pregnancy-related illness for five weeks.
Ms McGloin's case was among the cases of discrimination at work that made up almost 84pc of all those referred to the tribunal last year.
The tribunal's latest annual report, launched yesterday, reveals that cases of discriminatory dismissal have soared from one third of cases referred to it under employment equality legislation to three-quarters in the last few years.
There was a 12pc rise in employment equality cases in 2009 compared with the previous year, but an 18pc drop in equal status claims.
Speaking at the launch, Equality Tribunal director Melanie Pine, who will soon step down after 10 years heading the tribunal, said there had been a significant shift in its work in the last few years.
"The level of complaints of discrimination in employment equality has surged and now accounts for almost 84pc of cases referred to the tribunal last year," she said. "All indications are that this trend is set to continue.
"The changing economic circumstances have resulted in a major change in the type of cases coming to us."
Compensation for discrimination in employment can be up to two years' salary and last year the average award was €12,350, while the highest award was €189,000.
The top award was made to a senior employee in a transport company in November last year after she was found to have been victimised and bullied.
In another case, a taxi driver had to pay €2,000 to a woman, with a guide dog, whom he refused to pick up.
The taxi driver argued that he would have had to clean the taxi afterwards before collecting another pre-booked wedding fare.
And a former patient at the Mater Hospital won her case when she proved that she spent 37 days at the hospital without shower or toilet facilities suitable for a disabled person.
She was forced to use a catheter and discharged herself at one stage to go home to have a shower.
Of the 764 employment equality claims made at the tribunal during 2009, there was a 33pc increase in claims on the grounds of family status, a 21pc rise in claims on grounds of disability and a 15pc rise in claims on gender grounds.
There was a 49pc drop in claims taken on the grounds of age, and claims on the grounds of race plummeted by 29pc, although race claims were still the single biggest category of claims.
There were 287 claims on race grounds last year, well ahead of the next highest single claim category of disability, in which there were 116 claims.
Despite the drop in claims on the grounds of age last year, this category has seen a huge increase since the start of this year -- from six to 19.
Overall, over 900 claims were made to the tribunal last year, which was a similar figure to the previous year.