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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019

Woman awarded €11k after claiming employer asked to change her name to 'something more Irish'

The worker claims that she was subjected to harassment, discrimination and victimisation during her employment.

File photo
File photo
Image: Billion Photos via Shutterstock

A RECRUITMENT AGENCY has been ordered to pay €11,000 to a consultant who was fired as a result of victimisation.

Much of her case at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) focused on a claim that she was asked to change her name.

The worker also alleged that she was subjected to harassment, discrimination and victimisation in the course of her employment at the medical recruitment agency, by way of persistent disrespectful remarks about her heritage and culture. She claims the managing director (MD) asked her to change her name to something more Irish.

However, WRC adjudication officer Maire Mulcahy said that she did not uphold the complaint of harassment on the race ground or the complaint of discrimination on the grounds of race. She did find though that the dismissal of the complainant to be “an act of victimisation”.

Mulcahy said she was awarding the complainant the sum of €11,000 in “compensation which is equal to six months’ salary as redress for this breach”.


The woman began her employment as a medical recruitment consultant on 3 January 2017. She was in possession of a Stamp 1G visa, valid until 22 May 2017.

In her first few weeks of employment, numerous HSE-run hospitals assigned their recruitment drives and requirements to the company in question. Throughout January and February, the consultant said that she built up a database of up to 100 clients.

After around two weeks, she claims the MD asked her to improve her knowledge of the English language and to change her accent to sound more Irish.

She stated that the MD also advised her on how to write emails to make it appear that an Irish person and not an Indian person was writing them.

She said that the MD also asked her to adopt a shortened version of her name, stating that it sounded more Irish and that it would make clients think she was Irish and help her to develop business. She said she agreed very reluctantly to the suggested name change.

She also claimed the MD made consistent derogatory remarks about people from the Indian sub-continent and that he belittled her heritage and culture, criticising Indian people frequently.

The consultant did not make a complaint as the MD was the only other person in the office and she needed his support for her visa application.


The woman was summoned to a meeting on 9 March in a coffee shop beside her workplace.

The complainant said she was uncomfortable in this location and would have been more comfortable in the office, even if someone else was present.

She had no prior notification of this meeting or its purpose.

The MD said that he was not happy with her performance and raised concerns about her motivation. The woman challenged this and said she was well motivated and had sourced jobs for clients and had developed a database for the MD who up until then only had a rudimentary one.

The following day, on 10 March 2017, she was given a termination letter.

The complainant stated that she believed she was dismissed because of her race.


In his evidence, the MD denied the allegations that the woman was dismissed due to her race.

He stated that the former employee who introduced the woman to him was also Indian. He contended that it makes no sense for a fellow Indian to recommend the complainant to an organisation that would racially harass her.

The MD said that there were problems with the woman’s telephone manner and that she came across overly formal in her dealings with clients.

He said the complainant was hesitant about making business calls and he described a lack of motivation which manifested in lateness and poor performance against targets.

In relation to the woman’s claims about her name, the MD said he never asked or suggested that she change her name.

His evidence was that she suggested three times in the first three weeks of her employment that she would adopt a more Irish sounding name as she expressed fears that clients were prejudiced towards her when they heard her name.

He claimed that she herself specifically mentioned the names Aisling or Aoife. On the third request to change her name, the MD suggested she could shorten her own name.

In relation to the meeting on 9 March, he said it was not part of a “disciplinary process”.

The MD told the complainant that he was concerned about targets not being reached, lack of attention to detail and her manner of making phone calls.

During the meeting, he said the complainant said: “I changed my name for you. I am very proud of my name and this shows how dedicated I am.”

Overnight, he considered the accusation that he coerced her into changing her name, her poor performance and the continued cost to him of employing her. He considered whether he could turn the situation around and concluded he couldn’t.

He handed her a letter of termination on 10 March.

The MD disputes that he had any racial motives in terminating the complainant’s employment, and that she was never subjected to any racial remarks or taunts.


In her findings, Mulcahy outlined instances of alleged harassment made by the complainant, which can be found here.

Mulcahy said there was conflict of evidence about who initiated the name change.

She said there is an air of reality to the MD’s statement that a name change would not have altered a customer’s perception concerning her nationality.

“She never submitted any incidents of racial harassment or taunts from clients in her oral or written evidence. The question arises then why did she need to make herself more Irish for Irish clients,” Mulcahy said.

“I cannot see the value to the complainant, the respondent or his business of a respondent-sponsored name change. Again, it is very unfortunate if the complainant believed that masking her identity would assist her in getting more clients,” she said.

Mulcahy concluded that she did not uphold the complaint of harassment on the race group.

She added that having considered the conflict of evidence, and on balance of probabilities, she does “not find that the facts are sufficiently credible or significant to transfer the probative burden to the respondent”.

Mulcahy did not uphold the complaint of discrimination on the grounds of race.

She found that the dismissal of the complainant on 10 March 2017 was “an act of victimisation”.

With regard to all the evidence, Mulcahy awarded the complainant the sum of €11,000 in compensation.

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