Clonmel car dealership, Brian Mordaunt & Sons, has been ordered by the Employment Appeals Tribunal to pay €72,000 to a former employee, who it determined was treated in a “wholly unacceptable manner” during her pregnancy and unfairly dismissed by the company.
The Tribunal has decided Jennifer Beary of Kilsheelan should be awarded this sum in respect of her unfair dismissal from the company in 2010 following a public hearing of her case in Clonmel last month.
The company, based at Davis Road, Clonmel, wasn’t represented at the tribunal hearing on October 17 though it was formally notified of the case.
A statement from the company this week said it would be appealing the tribunal decision.
In its published determination, the three man tribunal chaired by Nicholas Russell, concluded that based on her uncontested evidence, it was reasonable for the claimant to leave her employment in light of the treatment she received at the hands of her employer and that she was unfairly dismissed.
In arriving at its decision, the Tribunal said it had taken due regard of the fact she was asked to “compromise her professional ethics as regards the treatment of the VAT liability in respect of repossessed vehicles”.
It also had taken due regard of the fact Ms Beary was treated in a “wholly unacceptable manner” in respect of her pregnancy and statutory maternity entitlements.
The Tribunal said it was satisfied the company was unhappy her pregnancy and related difficulties would necessitate her being out of work for a period and communicated this in a number of ways to her.
“The claimant’s workload was increased considerably during this period and no alternative and suitable arrangements appear to have been put in place for her period of absence.
“Indeed her employer advised her that it could not do without her services during her maternity absence and would need her to truncate her maternity entitlement or work from home during that period.”
The Tribunal decision also states that Ms Beary was inundated with work-related texts and e-mails during a stay in hospital in May 2010 after she had a serious bleed during her pregnancy.
“Immediately upon her hospital discharge following the bleed incident, she was collected on behalf of her employer at the hospital and ferried directly back to her workplace,” it continued.
When Ms Beary returned to work following the stillbirth of her baby, the Tribunal said she was subjected to “unacceptable comments and treatment that were indecent in nature and disregarded her grief and disrespected her”.
The Tribunal determination also highlights that after the stillbirth of her baby in July, 2010, the company insisted she return to work two weeks later, initially on the understanding that it would be on a part-time basis until she felt able to cope.
However, the employer “terminated unilaterally” this arrangement a week later and insisted she work full time.
“In these actions by the company there appears to have been a total disregard for the claimant’s well being. In the event of a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy, the mother is still entitled to 18 weeks maternity leave,” the Tribunal stated.
The Tribunal determination also mentions a speaker phone conversation on July 21, 2010, which Ms Beary was privy to and which she was clearly not intended to hear.
The phone call was “strongly suggestive of provision having been made by the company to replace her”.
The refusal and failure of a company director (referred to as GM) to subsequently discuss matters or engage with her were strongly supportive of this proposition, the Tribunal concludes.
In a statement, George Mordaunt, Managing Director of the Mordaunt Group, said they couldn’t attend the Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing on technical grounds as the company in question ceased over a year ago. They had to wait for the appeal process.
He said the company deny the allegations and the case was being appealed to the circuit court.