An upmarket wedding venue in Slane has been ordered to pay €17,500 compensation to the operations manager it dismissed 26 days after she suffered a miscarriage last year.
At the Workplace Relations Commission, adjudicator Seamus Clinton ordered the operator of the Millhouse wedding and function venue in Slane, Co. Meath, Slane Trading Company Ltd, to pay Marta Siudak for her discriminatory dismissal on gender grounds on March 2 last.
The dismissal was just under four weeks after Ms Siudak suffered a miscarriage on February 4 of last year. During Ms Siudak’s sick leave period, she received flowers from her work colleagues and returned to work on February 21.
Represented by former League of Ireland footballer, Aaron Shearer BL in the WRC case, Ms Siudak had informed management of her pregnancy on December 27, 2021
However, on her return to work after her miscarriage, Ms Siudak’s line manager had left and she was liaising with a new manager who was a consultant working three days a week. Following a disciplinary meeting on March 2, the firm terminated Ms Siudak’s employment based on alleged underperformance in the role. She had started work at the Georgian Manor House venue in October 2021.
In his findings, Mr Clinton stated that from Ms Siudak’s perspective, ‘the dismissal decision arose without any lead-up or advance warning’.
Mr Clinton said that the firm blamed Ms Siudak for operational issues in November/December 2021. However, Mr Clinton stated that there are no contemporaneous notes or letters flagging these events as ‘under-performance’ in line with the company’s own policy.
He also stated that he found that ‘the evidence establishes an inference of discriminatory treatment, and that the dismissal was related in some way to the complainant’s gender and pregnancy’.
He stated that although this inference can be rebutted by the employer, ‘I did not find sufficient, substantial and/or cogent reasons for the dismissal from the respondent’s evidence’.
Mr Clinton stated that Slane Trading had not raised any performance issues by the end of January 2022, and that all the evidence demonstrated that Ms Siudak’s performance was not under scrutiny.
In evidence, Janey Quigley, director at Slane Trading, stated that Ms Siudak under-performed in the role. She added that Ms Siudak’s aggressive behaviour at the March 2 meeting contributed to the decision to dismiss.
In her evidence, Ms Siudak stated that even though the disciplinary meeting was unpleasant for her, she described her conduct during the meeting as reasonable.