€55k Awarded To Director of Marketing For Discrimination On Grounds of Gender

The Complainant has been employed for almost four years before made redundant without notice, and 14 days after informing her employer that she was pregnant. The Complainant contended that she had been discriminated against on gender and family status grounds and had been dismissed by means of redundancy due to her pregnancy.

The Complainant commenced employment in October 2012 and was promoted to the position of Director of Marketing in October 2015. She took an initial period of maternity leave in 2017 before returning in February 2018. Mr Xa who replaced her during this period of maternity leave remained employed when she returned. The Complainant was 5 months pregnant at the date of her redundancy, 14th November 2018, which was 14 days after she had informed the Company that she was pregnant. Company Organisation charts were submitted at the hearing which showed Mr Xa fulfilling the role of Director of Marketing, after she was made redundant.

The Company outlined that 18 employees in total from their UK and Irish Operations had been selected for redundancy in November 2018, after the Board directed that €10 million costs be taken out of the organisation, and said they were not aware that the Complainant was pregnant when the decision was made to make her redundant, and the decision was a necessary one for the survival of the Company. It was further outlined that Mr Xa had made a valuable overall contribution to the Company since initially employed to cover the Complainant’s maternity leave, and he did not directly replace the Complainant. The Company also contended that the alleged lack of consultation with the Complainant about the redundancy was not relevant to the claim which was one of discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts.

Whilst the Adjudicator accepted that there were clear financial difficulties facing the Company, it was not considered that the Company had sufficiently established that there was no link to the longer serving Complainant’s pregnancy and her inclusion on the redundancy list, given that herself and Mr Xa were almost interchangeable in terms of roles undertaken in the Company, and the Complainant would have been entitled to avail of a maternity leave scheme that would have been costly to the Company. The Adjudicator did not accept that the decision to make the Complainant redundant had been made in isolation to these factors, and said it was not reasonable that the Company would have been indifferent to the overheads arising from an extended period of maternity leave for a highly paid employee.

It was determined that €50,000 be paid as compensation for discrimination on grounds of gender due to the Complainant being selected for redundancy due to being pregnant, and also that €5,000 be awarded as compensation for the distress and upset caused by the subsequent difficulties she experienced in qualifying for statutory maternity leave, due to her service end date.

It should be noted that the issue of lack of consultation and due process on the implementation of the redundancy, was not considered as part of the hearing which was concerned with the issue of whether discrimination had occurred, and would have been a more relevant factor, in the event that a claim for unfair selection for redundancy has been taken under the unfair dismissal legislation.

Case Ref – ADJ 00019756