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Discriminatory dismissal

Hair salon to pay former worker €10,000 for dismissing her while pregnant

The salon told the claimant she could come back after she’d had the baby and ‘they’d see what they could do’.

A DUBLIN HAIRDRESSER has been awarded €10,000 for being dismissed while pregnant.

She was awarded the money by the Labour Court which said her dismissal was discriminatory.

The incident happened in 2014 when the complainant in the case, Shaunai Reilly, was let go five months after informing her employer, Hair Creations, that she was pregnant.

The commission felt that the respondent hadn’t done enough to get rid of the presumption that the complainant was fired because she was pregnant, and therefore her termination was discriminatory.

How did this come about?

Before the incident, the complainant said she was doing very well in her position. She felt she was building up a loyal clientele and had received praise and encouragement from management.

When she became pregnant at the end of January 2014, she told the company about her pregnancy and her need to attend hospital appointments.

The complainant argued that after her employer learned she was pregnant, she was treated differently. She no longer received any favourable feedback and more junior staff were given priority for better hairdressing duties over her.

She complained about an incident in the staff room in March 2014. She said she was subjected to hostile and aggressive behaviour by her manager and that she was restrained from leaving the room. She said she was frightened, was crying hysterically and had to call her mother.

On 19 July 2014, the complainant express dissatisfaction that she was not given her full break entitlements and that her legs had become very swollen after only a 10 minute break.

Two days later her employer told her there was no work for her, and she was going to be let go. She could come back later after she had her baby and they would ‘see what they could do’.

Hair Creations argued that the complainant was let go because her four-year apprenticeship had finished, and that not all apprentices were given jobs after their training.

The respondent said that the comment about seeing what they could do was something they had said to other apprentices because they could not afford to keep them on at the time.

Commission ruling

The commission found that the respondent had not cleared the high bar set by the law on protection from discrimination during pregnancy.

The Employment Equality Acts state that it should be presumed that a complainant is dismissed for being pregnant unless the respondent proves the contrary.

Pregnancy has been held to be a ‘special, protected period’ in order to limit the adverse effects of discriminatory treatment on women workers and their unborn children.

Hair Creations had not produced any evidence that the complainant had registered with them for an apprenticeship, or that she had been given any contract of employment.

While the commission did not find discrimination during employment, they did rule in the complainant’s favour on the claim of discriminatory dismissal.

It ordered Hair Creations to pay her €10,000.

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