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Labour Court Overturns WRC Finding of Discrimination Where Pregnant Employee was Denied the Opportunity to Work Remotely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

posted 1 year ago

In the Labour Court case, Saint John of God Community Services v. Ann Doherty EDA 2313,the Respondent employer appealed the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) finding that the Complainant had been discriminated against on the grounds of her family status. The WRC had awarded the Complainant €45,000 for the effects of the discrimination.

Facts: The Complainant was employed by the Respondent from 2016 as an instructor in the Employment Services division. In February 2020, the Complainant became aware that she was pregnant with her second child. Due to pregnancy-related illness, the Complainant was on sick leave from 26th February 2020 to 4th March 2020. She returned to work on 4th March and went on pre-booked annual leave on 13th March. The Complainant was due to return to work from annual leave on 24th March 2020, but at this time the first wave of pandemic related restrictions was in place. The Complainant called her Co-Ordinator, Mr. Des Balmer, on 18th March to discuss options for her return to work. The Complainant asked to continue in her instructor role in the Employment Services division, but requested permission to work from home as she had no childcare support and was pregnant. Mr. Balmer informed the Complainant that her work from home request could not be facilitated and that no annual leave (other than pre-agreed leave) was being granted. Her only options were to go on unpaid leave or make herself available for redeployment to a residential setting as the Respondent was prioritising that support service. Mr. Balmer gave evidence that this was the same message he had given to many of her colleagues who had contacted him.

The Complainant was unable to work in a residential setting as she had no childcare and she could not afford to take unpaid leave. Her GP provided her with a medical certificate for four weeks on grounds of pregnancy-related ”stress and low mood”.

 

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