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Tech Sector

Irish woman fired by Israeli firm for 'terrorist state' comment says she feels 'blacklisted'

The controversy prompted Tánaiste Micheál Martin to claim her dismissal was “unacceptable”.

AN IRISH FORMER employee of an Israeli tech firm who was fired from her job after calling Israel “a terrorist state” on social media, has claimed she feels “blacklisted” from working in the tech sector over the controversy.

Courtney Carey was sacked from her position with Wix Online Platforms, where she had worked for 4½ years, on October 23, 2023 for alleged gross misconduct.

At a hearing of the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin on Wednesday, the company conceded that its dismissal of Carey had been “procedurally unfair.”

Wix, an Israeli multinational which employs around 500 people in its Dublin office, provides a platform for building websites.

WRC adjudication officer, Marie Flynn, directed that only evidence about the level of losses be awarded to Carey should be heard and that there should be no discussion about the “substantive issue.”

She acknowledged that her ruling might be “very difficult” for the complainant.

At one stage she interrupted a line of questioning by Carey’s legal representatives when they attempted to refer to Wix’s chief executive commenting on the complainant’s dismissal in a podcast.

Carey’s solicitor, Barry Crushnell, acknowledged that the WRC hearing was “not a forum for a discussion about international affairs.”

However, Crushnell observed that there was “a very public nature” to his client’s dismissal coupled with comments made by Wix management.

In posts and comments on LinkedIn, Carey had described Israel as a “terrorist state” and criticised the “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza by Israel.

Wix’s chief operations and president, Nir Zohar, explained last year that the company had decided to part ways with an employee after it had been bombarded with messages from Israeli employees who sent screenshots of Carey’s post.

The controversy prompted the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, to claim her dismissal was “unacceptable” as employees “should be allowed their individual viewpoints.”

Counsel for Carey, Cillian McGovern BL, told the WRC that his client was only looking for what was “just and equitable” in damages.

The WRC heard that the complainant had recently begun her first job since being fired from Wix with a temporary contract as a clerk in a customer service role with An Post.

McGovern said Carey was on a salary of € 25,000 in her new position which was considerably less than her salary of €40,000 with Wix.

He said she had not stopped looking for new employment opportunities since taking up her new job.

Carey (27) from Clondalkin, Dublin gave evidence that she had been looking for new roles on websites like jobs.ie and through informal meetings through LinkedIn since her dismissal.

However, she was unsuccessful in finding any position on the same pay scale or level as her role with Wix.

“I felt I was discriminated against based on the media coverage,” said Carey.

She claimed she had received no response to most job applications despite having the relevant qualifications and experience.

“It was like I was blacklisted from the tech sector. There were multiple tweets, LinkedIn posts, all within that circle regarding me as a person who supports terrorism,” said Carey.

She continued: “I felt it was incredibly difficult to have a conversation with people and dispute the claims made about me online. It obviously damaged my character.”

“I would have great interviews, conversations with people and as soon as my previous employment was brought up, there were what I would assume to be background checks on me – every line went cold,” said Carey.

“I started to feel I was never going to get a job in the sector again because of what happened,” she added.

Carey recalled she was contacted by one recruitment agency, CPL, but when she confirmed that she had been dismissed from her previous job, she never heard from them again.

She told the WRC that she had applied directly to An Garda Síochána as an emergency call operator but her application did not progress further, while she had also applied for “lower jobs” like a bartender.

Asked about financial losses suffered as a result of her dismissal, Ms Carey said she had been unable to afford her €1,800 monthly rent on a studio apartment and had to move in with a relative.

“It was incredibly difficult. I really suffered,” she added.

Under-cross examination by counsel for Wix, Rosemary Mallon BL, she agreed that she had applied for about 60 jobs since her dismissal.

Mallon suggested that applying for an average of 2-3 jobs per week was insufficient mitigation and that there were “a hell of a lot more” positions that the complainant could have applied for.

However, Carey retorted that there were far fewer roles for her area of expertise as a team leader.

The WRC heard she had applied for around 14 jobs since taking up her new position with An Post.

Mallon observed that the complainant had received a lot of support about her stance including over 240 donations for a GoFundMe campaign (which has raised over €6,100 to date.)

The barrister noted that one of the first comments about the controversy on X (formerly Twitter) was a post, which received 29,000 views, urging others to help Carey to find a new job before the week was out.

Mallon observed that it would suggest that the complainant’s reputation was not as damaged as she maintained.

However, Carey said the majority of online commentary was “negative.”

The barrister complained that there was a lack of documentation from Carey about efforts she had made to find new employment since her dismissal including about overtime and promotional opportunities in relation to her job with An Post.

“There is not a scintilla of evidence,” Mallon remarked.

She claimed there was an onus on the complainant to demonstrate that she had “properly and appropriately mitigated her loss.”

Mallon said Wix had identified lots of jobs for which Carey was qualified.

Under legislation, the maximum award that can be made by the WRC in the Wix case is €80,000 – the equivalent of two years’ salary.

The WRC said it would issue its ruling on the compensation award in due course.

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Author
Seán McCárthaigh