Niamh Moloney was awarded €15,000 compensation for her treatment by Little Treasures Creche & Playschool
A CRECHE worker who said she received an abusive response from a company director after asking to return from maternity leave has been awarded €15,000 in compensation by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Niamh Moloney says she was called a “stupid f***ing b****” in a phone conversation with a director.
She also said the same person turned up to her home at 10pm at night demanding she put a date on her letter of resignation.
Ms Moloney’s discrimination complaint under the Employment Equality Act against Little Treasures Creche & Playschool Limited, trading as Little Treasures Creche & Playschool, at New Inn, Cashel, Co Tipperary, was upheld in a decision published by the WRC this morning.
The company had claimed that Ms Moloney "did not turn up for work" when initially offered part-time hours and later full-time hours. However, the WRC found that the complainant was offered a combination of relief work and cleaning duties, which was unlike her role prior to maternity leave.
Ms Moloney said in evidence to a hearing last month that she had worked 38 to 40 hours per week prior to going on maternity leave on January 9, 2020.
She had sought a written assurance before taking maternity leave that she would be allowed to go back to her job in the toddler room.
“In the past, the roles of colleagues were changed after they came back from maternity leave,” she told the WRC.
She looked to go back on July 22, 2020, and met a company director, Anita O’Dwyer, in her office and discussed the matter with her, she said.
Ms O’Dwyer told her the company had “no work for her at that time” and that “all hours for employees would be reduced as a result of the pandemic”, Ms Moloney said.
The complainant said she was told she could go back to work from early September 2020 from 9am to 3pm, five days a week.
She said she agreed to reduced hours for the first three weeks, at her own request, as her daughter was starting a new school and that after that she would go back to full-time.
In August 2020, Ms Moloney texted Ms O’Dwyer to confirm the exact date she was to go back to work, she said.
The response came when Ms O’Dwyer phoned her and said: “You stupid f***ing b****, I told you I don’t have the hours,” she said.
Instead she was offered a “discretionary relief position” from Tuesdays to Thursdays and work as a cleaner on Mondays and Fridays, Ms Moloney said.
The complainant said she had been promised her previous position back when it became available – but that she wasn’t put back on the roster until she made a complaint into the WRC in October 2020.
In January 2021, Ms Moloney said she went to look for a reference.
She said Ms O’Dwyer told her she would have to resign first, so she resigned.
The complainant said she was promised a good reference but that “as it turned out, she got two bad references”.
She managed to secure new work and started in March 2021 in another creche.
Little Treasures said it reopened its doors after lockdown on July 20, 2020, and that it took weeks to “settle the children after being at home for so long”.
Its position was that it was “very reluctant to move staff from rooms after their hard work in settling the children in”.
The complainant had chosen not to attend a Covid course on July 15, it said.
The company said it was in contact with Ms Moloney “numerous times” in September 2020 about returning to work.
The creche manager sent out four weekly rosters listing Ms Moloney’s hours between October 30 and November 20, 2020.
“There was no response and the complainant did not turn up for work. The complainant was offered part-time hours initially as she requested and she did not return to work,” the company said.
“She said she was not happy with that, then she was offered full-time hours as she requested and she still did not return to work,” it added.
In his decision, published this morning, adjudicating officer Breiffni O’Neill noted that WhatsApp messages from the creche offering Ms Moloney part-time work in September and October were “particularly forthcoming” after Ms Moloney’s solicitor wrote to her employer on September 10.
The combination of relief work and cleaning duties was unlike her role prior to maternity leave, in spite of the fact the worker who had covered her leave was now working full-time in a childcare role, Mr O’Neill wrote.
“I fully accept the complainant’s evidence on this matter and, having given careful consideration to same, I am satisfied that this amounts, prima facie, to discrimination on the gender and family status grounds,” he wrote.
Mr O’Neill did not accept the suggestion that other staff had to be kept on full-time because the children were “used to them”.
He said the complainant’s direct evidence was “compelling” and that it was backed up by the correspondence between the parties in September and October.
He found Ms Moloney was treated less favourably than another employee who was not on maternity leave and that she had therefore been discriminated against on the grounds of gender and family status.
Mr O’Neill awarded €15,000 in compensation.
Parallel complaints under the Parental Leave Act and the Maternity Protection Act were withdrawn by Ms Moloney’s solicitors, JJ Fitzgerald & Co, as duplicates.
Ms O’Dwyer said she would be appealing the ruling.