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Solicitor Awarded €30,000 for Dismissal from Firm While Pregnant

posted 12 months ago

The Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) case of Orla Howe v Colm Kelly, Healy Crowley Ahearn ADJ-00038992 was a complaint seeking adjudication under section 77 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 (“Act”) in respect of the Complainant’s dismissal while pregnant. In a decision dated 21st June 2023, the Adjudicator, Marie Flynn, rejected the Respondent’s defence that the dismissal was a genuine redundancy due to the firm’s finances, noting that the Respondent did not actually reduce staff head count, but instead recruited a new member of staff.

Facts: The Complainant, a solicitor, was employed by the Respondent firm, trading as HCA Law, from 2nd January 2020 to 17th December 2021. Her employment was terminated by reason of redundancy. The Respondent, Mr Kelly, is the Principal of the firm. The Respondent stated that the redundancy was due to financial difficulties experienced by the firm. The Complainant disputed this, contending that she was dismissed due to her pregnancy and/or her anticipated maternity leave. The Complainant submitted complaints of discrimination based on both gender and family status, and a complaint of discriminatory dismissal.  

The Complainant submitted that the attitude and behaviour of the Respondent towards her changed significantly after she informed him of her pregnancy. She claimed that her workload decreased considerably, and that the Respondent took over her existing files without consulting with her. She was not included in office meetings that she previously would have attended. Further, the Respondent did not discuss with the Complainant how her files would be managed when she would eventually be taking maternity leave.

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