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Minimum-wage employee who was working 70 hour weeks while heavily pregnant receives €55,000 in compensation

Polish national Ewelina Gacek has won her case against €uro 50 store at the Equality Tribunal.

Image: Shutterstock/menz11stock

A POLISH WOMAN who was expected to work 70-hour weeks while heavily pregnant has won compensation of €55,000 from her former employer following a judgement by the Equality Tribunal.

Ewelina Gacek took a case against the €uro 50 store in Dublin’s Ilac Centre, her former employer, to the Tribunal on grounds that she was victimised and discriminated against in her work with regard to her race, her gender, and her family situation.

Gacek commenced work with €uro 50 in the Ilac Centre in 2011 as a sales assistant on minimum wage. Within three months her role changed to that of trainee manager. The following month, December 2011, she was unofficially promoted to de facto branch manager.

Her hours at this time saw her working 60-70 hour weeks for a salary of €22,000 – significantly less than both her previous salary and the Irish minimum wage of €8.65 an hour.

Once she became pregnant in February 2012, her employer’s attitude towards her became exceptionally harsh. She was instructed to take all ante-natal classes outside working hours. Toilet breaks were discouraged. The following email excerpt between Gacek and her employer was submitted as indicating the working conditions she was subject to:

Also I know that you are using public transport to get to the store. Sometimes though you are in the store 1.5hr before opening. I hope that you are not counting this additional time to your daily work time.
I can understand that you are pregnant but I can still show you time sheets of other managers that were pregnant and still were doing 60-80 hrs a week and worked till the last day. Only last year two managers nearly got their baby in the store, they finished in the afternoon and in the evening they were in labour. Also their stores are much more difficult than yours. This is the commitment they are giving to us, we didn’t ask them.

Gacek was informed that she would be given a raise in line with her managerial responsibilities when she returned from maternity leave – this failed to materialise. In fact, she found that she had been effectively demoted when she returned in favour of someone who had previously been junior to her.

When she aired her grievance she was told that she was a trainee manager only, and that this was the role she had returned to.

When she photocopied an internal manager-handover form to support her grievance she was suspended for a breach of the Data Protection Act.

In its defence, €uro 50 store claimed that Gacek was simply initially disappointed that somebody at the same level was promoted ahead of her.

One crucial witness aided Gacek’s case, an Irish woman who had worked for €uro 50 store as a trainee manager at the same time Gacek was the de facto store manager and left as “she was not willing to put up with the dreadful working conditions”.

This woman submitted that the store’s approach was to make anybody with a strong work ethic a Trainee Manager as it saved them money on overtime in the long run.

The Tribunal concluded that Gacek had been:

  • Harassed on grounds of race
  • Discriminated against on grounds of gender and family status regarding conditions of employment
  • Discriminated against on grounds of gender and family status in relation to promotion
  • Victimised as defined under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011

The Tribunal ordered she be compensated as follows:

  • €33,000 (the equivalent of 18 months salary) in compensation for the harassment, conditions of employment and promotion
  • €22,000 (the equivalent of a year’s salary) in compensation for the distress caused by victimisatory dismissal.

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