The Equality Tribunal recently awarded a former employee of BCon Communications Limited (in liquidation) €80,000 in compensation after it found that she had been harassed and discriminatorily dismissed by her former employer on the grounds of family status and gender.
Ms Mullen had worked with the Company since 2003. However, she claimed that once she informed her Managing Director in 2009 that she was pregnant with her third child he “froze her out”, removing tasks from her and undermining her in front of clients.
When Ms Mullen informed her Managing Director that she was pregnant with her third child she claimed he made disparaging and inappropriate remarks and his attitude became hostile to her. Ms Mullen was extremely upset by the remarks as she had suffered a recent miscarriage.
Ms Mullen also claimed that, on a separate occasion, the Managing Director made further inappropriate remarks in the presence of Ms Mullen and two clients.
It was also claimed by Ms Mullen that during an interview for her maternity leave replacement the applicant enquired about the duration of the contract. Ms Mullen said that the Managing Director responded by saying “well I’m not sure if[Ms Mullen] will be coming back to work especially now she will have three children to look after”.
Further, when Ms Mullen was due to return to work after her maternity leave she claimed that she was advised that her position as Financial Controller no longer existed and she was offered a lesser role. Ms Mullen argued that her role did exist as her replacement was still carrying out the tasks which she had previously performed. Ms Mullen refused to take this lower role and the Managing Director considered Ms Mullen as having resigned when she refused to return to duty in the lesser role.
Nobody attended the hearing on behalf of the Company.
The Equality Tribunal found that Ms Mullen had been harassed on the grounds of family status and gender and had been dismissed in circumstances amounting to discrimination on the same grounds. She was awarded €80,000 as compensation for the distress suffered by her as a consequence of the discrimination.
This case serves as a reminder of the high awards that are granted in equality cases. Employers should have a clear equality policy in place and this should be communicated to all employees and followed by the employer. In particular, managers should receive training to reduce the risk of such claims being brought.