SECTION 27, EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACT, 1977
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY THE EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY AGENCY)
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Alleged unfair dismissal of a worker under Section 27 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 ('the Act').
2. The employer in this case is Thomas Rennick of Church View, Tuam, Co. Galway. The worker is Tara Mannion of 9 Parkview Drive, Tuam, Co. Galway. The employer operates a one-man veterinary practice. The worker concerned commenced employment as a secretary/receptionist with the employer in February, 1996.
On the 29th May, 1996 the worker was admitted to hospital. She was discharged on the 3rd June, 1996. She resumed work on the 4th June, 1996 and advised her employer that she was pregnant. She alleges that as soon as her employer became aware of her pregnancy his attitude changed towards her.
In May/June, 1996 the worker was hospitalised for a total of about three weeks.
The worker was dismissed on 29th June 1996.
The worker claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed and submitted a complaint to the Labour Court under Section 27 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977. The Labour Court investigated the complaint in Galway on the 13th August, 1997 in accordance with the provisions of Section 26 of the Act. Both parties made written submissions to the Court which were expanded upon orally at the hearing.
3. 1. The worker received no complaints regarding her work prior to her pregnancy and received no warnings prior to her dismissal.
2. The employer's attitude changed towards the worker after he was informed of her pregnancy. He became rude and abusive. He complained that he would have to hire a replacement during her maternity leave which would fall in a busy spring period, particularly because of the lambing season.
3. The worker was in regular contact with the employer during her illness and provided medical certificates at the earliest opportunity. On each occasion she telephoned him he was aggressive and shouted at her about how unreliable she was.
4. The worker was dismissed because of her pregnancy and therefore her dismissal contravened Section 3 of the Employment Equality Act, 1997.
5. The Court was requested to award an appropriate remedy to redress the distress, discrimination and loss she has experienced.
4. 1. The employment of the worker was not terminated on account of her pregnancy. She was hired on a six month probationary period and only worked for four months. Despite repeated requests from the employer she refused to improve her attitude to work or to the clients of the practice.
2. The employee regularly took days off work without warning or without furnishing medical certificates. She was absent on two and a half days in March, 1996, three days in May, 1996, fourteen days in June, 1996. Finally on the 8th August, 1996 a post-dated medical certificate was furnished.
3. The worker's absenteeism was unpredictable. This put added pressure on the veterinary practice and caused stress to the veterinary practitioner and his family. The surgery could not be kept open on a regular basis due to her absence.
4. The worker was warned on a number of occasions to improve her work performance - to be more attentive to TB cards; to make less mistakes with farmers accounts; to be more polite on the telephone; to be less aggressive with clients in the practice.
5. The veterinary practitioner previously employed a secretary for 16 years. During her employment she availed of maternity leave on 3 occasions with the consent of her employer.
6. All allegations and charges made by the claimant were emphatically denied.
Having considered the written and oral submissions made by both parties in this case, the Court, on balance, favours the evidence of the claimant and finds that the claim was well-founded and that the claimant was discriminated against in terms of Section 3 of the Act.
The Court orders the employer, Thomas Rennick of Church View, Tuam, Co. Galway to pay to the worker, Tara Mannion of 9 Park View Drive, Tuam, Co. Galway the sum of £1,000 for the distress and loss she has suffered.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
1st September, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Order should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.