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A woman has been awarded €80,000 by the Equality Tribunal against her former employer as a result of discrimination suffered by her relating to maternity leave. The decision serves as a reminder to employers of the importance of being aware of what is expected of them under equality legislation, as the awards given by the Equality Tribunal can be substantial.

In this instance, the woman had taken a case on the basis that she was ‘frozen out’ by her Managing Director upon informing him that she was pregnant for the third time. She was subjected to disparaging and inappropriate remarks, and when she did return after maternity leave she was informed that her position no longer existed and was offered a lesser role. This was notwithstanding the fact that her replacement while she was on maternity leave continued to perform the woman’s former duties.

The claimant refused to take the lesser role, a refusal which was interpreted as a resignation by her former employer. The Tribunal found that she had been unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of family status and gender and made the award of €80,000 as compensation for the distress suffered.

If you are an employer, it is important to ensure that policies are in place to ensure compliance with the Equal Status Act and Employment Equality Act. Failure to do so can leave you vulnerable to a claim before the Equality Tribunal.

Having an effective policy and training programme in place can reduce this risk by ensuring staff are aware of their responsibilities, as well as having an appropriate grievance procedure in place for staff who feel they are subjected to discrimination.

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