Wrights of Howth Seafood Bars v Ms. Dorota Murat
Summary of Case
The employer in question appealed an earlier Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication Decision (ADJ-00001004) which had awarded Ms. Murat €30,000 for a discriminatory dismissal.
The employer told the Labour Court that Ms. Murat’s dismissal was due to her incompetence in terms of her ability to execute the role of Restaurant Manager for which she had been hired.
The employer told the court that Ms. Murat’s shortcomings became apparent soon after her appointment to her role within the company. It was claimed that Ms. Murat did not get on well with staff members, she failed to address serious employee matters and that service and hygiene standards within the restaurant had deteriorated significantly under her tenure.
Ms. Murat joined the company in March 2015 and was on a six-month probationary period. She informed her employer of her pregnancy on May 8th, 2015. Some five weeks later on June 15th, Ms. Murat was called to a meeting with her manager and was informed that she was being dismissed. Ms. Murat received her p45 the following day.
Ms. Murat told the court that she was shocked by the decision to dismiss her and that she had noticed a change in the employer’s attitude towards her once she had informed the company that she was pregnant.
The employer denied that the dismissal had anything to do with Ms. Murat’s pregnancy but that it was solely a consequence of her poor work performance. The company said that they were concerned about staff morale, which it felt was being damaged by Ms. Murat’s approach to managing people.
A number of staff members who gave evidence told the court that Ms. Murat had been the cause of much of the staff morale and staff performance issues in the restaurant.
The Labour Court’s Determination
The Court found that Ms. Murat’s dismissal was “tainted with discrimination”. The decision to dismiss Ms. Murat and the manner in which it was implemented, were “seriously lacking in adherence to the companies’ own disciplinary procedures”. The court found that Ms. Murat had not been issued any warnings prior to her informing her employer of her pregnancy. Furthermore, Ms. Murat was not given an opportunity to correct her performance or make representations on her own behalf.
The court reset Ms. Murat’s award to €15,000 and stated that it was “for the effects of discrimination and is not in the nature of remuneration”.
As pregnancy is a Protected Ground, employers must be mindful that dismissal of a pregnant employee immediately raises an inference of Gender Discrimination.
The burden of proof remains with the company to demonstrate that the dismissal was fair and in no way connected to the employee’s pregnancy. The Pregnancy Directive 92/85/EEC prohibits dismissal of a pregnant worker unless “duly substantiated grounds for her dismissal” are provided in writing.
Performance issues during the probationary period should be managed consistently and fairly with all employees. This case highlights a number of failings on the employers’ behalf. Ms. Murat was not subject to any performance reviews, no issues with her performance had been raised with her prior to her notifying the company that she was pregnant and she was not subject to any disciplinary procedures before being dismissed.
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