A recent Equality Tribunal ruling has reiterated the strict approach the Tribunal takes to pregnancy discrimination claims. 

In the case of Claire Keenan v Stephen Kehoe t/a Mortgage Cabin* the Tribunal awarded the claimant €95,000 as it held she had been unfairly selected for redundancy on the grounds of her pregnancy. The claimant also alleged that her employer’s attitude to her changed when she announced that she intended to take her full maternity leave entitlement. The respondent had been pressurising her into taking a shorter period. 

The respondent employer did not deny that a redundancy had taken place but claimed it had no choice given the financial circumstances of the company. 

The Tribunal however did not accept the respondent’s defence. It said that where a dismissal takes places during pregnancy there is a very high threshold for the employer to cross in showing that the dismissal was in no way connected to the pregnancy. The employer here was unable to meet this threshold. The Tribunal noted that he had recruited a more junior albeit less expensive person to cover her leave. 

The case demonstrates the consistent approach of the Tribunal to penalise employers who fail to acknowledge the special status of the protected period from the start of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave. In this case the award was equivalent to approximately one year’s salary and is a salutary warning for employers of their obligations towards pregnant employees.

*Claire Keenan v Stephen Kehoe t/a Mortgage Cabin DEC- E2012 -105