A department manager at a hotel here asked a seven month pregnant female colleague did she eat too much Supermac’s or was she expecting.
The Dept Manager is alleged to have asked the Bar Manager the question the same day that the woman was dismissed from her post on September 5th 2017.
Now, at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC Adjudication Officer, Ewe Sobanska has ordered the un-named hotel to pay €14,000 for the woman’s dismissal after finding that the woman was discriminated against on the gender ground.
In her findings, Ms Sobanska found that the Bar Manager’s dismissal was tainted with discrimination and her pregnancy was a significant factor contributing to her dismissal.
Ms Sobanska said that she found that no genuine redundancy situation existed at the time of the Bar Manager’s dismissal.
The un-named Bar Manager told the WRC that she found the Dept Manager’s ‘Supermac’s comment’ “inappropriate and offensive”.
Earlier that day, the woman had informed the hotel’s General Manager (GM) that she was pregnant and that she was due to have her baby at Christmas time.
Later on September 5th 2017, the woman said that she was called to the GM’s office where a HR and Training Executive was waiting with the GM.
At the meeting, the woman alleged that the HR executive told her that they couldn’t afford to keep her position any longer and that she was being made redundant.
The woman stated that that she left work feeling embarrassed and humiliated having been dismissed from her job.
The woman stated that in her dismissal letter, the reason for the dismissal was redundancy but she argued that a genuine redundancy situation did not exist and the dismissal was simply a convenient means for dealing with her pregnancy.
The woman stated that the hotel’s actions caused her significant stress, upset and distress. She stated that she had wanted and needed to work until commencing her maternity leave and then return to work after maternity leave.
The woman had only commenced work at the hotel on April 3rd 2017.
In response, the hotel categorically denied that the Bar Manager was dismissed because she was pregnant.
In evidence, the woman confirmed that she informed her employer on July 20th 2017 that she had a miscarriage.
The woman confirmed that she was not informed by a medical person of the miscarriage, but she thought she had suffered a miscarriage at the time.
The woman accepted that her employer genuinely believed that she had a miscarriage. She confirmed that she did not inform her employer about the pregnancy until September 5th 2017.
The hotel argued that the Bar Manager told the hotel that she had a miscarriage and she is an author of her own misfortune by never informing the hotel that this was, in fact, not the case.
The hotel emphasised that the Bar Manager did not inform the hotel of her pregnancy on 5th September 2017 and the decision to make her redundant was made on 28th August 2017.
The GM claimed that she did not tell him she was pregnant on September 5th 2017 and she did not look pregnant.
The hotel is part of a 10-strong hotel group and the GM told the WRC that it would be “ludicrous” for him to make an employee redundant after being informed of her pregnancy. He stated that currently there are seven female staff members pregnant and they all are able to negotiate the process.
The GM further stated that the decision to make the Bar Manager redundant was made two weeks prior to 5th September 2017 and the only information the hotel had at the time was that she had a miscarriage.
The HR executive pointed out that nobody in HR would have permitted the employer to proceed with the redundancy if they were aware that the Bar Manager was pregnant. The HR executive stated that the complainant was “absolutely not” visibly pregnant.
The hotel stated that the decision to dismiss was taken solely on economic grounds and unrelated to pregnancy.
The Bar Manager submitted that she had a somewhat difficult pregnancy which caused her absence from work in May/June /July 2017.
In her findings, Ms Sobanska stated is a fact that the complainant’s sick leave was fundamentally linked with her pregnancy, whether it was miscarried or not is irrelevant, and the hotel was fully aware of that.
Ms Sobanska stated that did not proffer sufficient evidence to show that the dismissal was not related to the Bar Manager’s pregnancy and its consequences.
Ordering the hotel to pay the €14,000, Ms Sobanska stated “whilst such discrimination might well merit a higher award, I have given consideration to the relatively short tenure of the complainant’s employment”.