Employment Law Update – Equality Tribunal

There have been a number of recent decisions from the Equality Tribunal which have penalised Employers heavily for discrimination and bullying. One Employer was fined €315,000 by the Equality Tribunal for its actions.

This award was made by the Equality Tribunal in O’Brien -v- Persian Properties and was made up of 21 months salary and €94,500 as a penalty. In that case the Employer was found to have been insensitive and hostile in dealing with an Employee who had requested a four day week after returning from maternity leave. The Employer told her that if she got pregnant again he’d prefer it if she didn’t come back at all. He then dismissed her. This was deemed by the Equality Tribunal to be harassment and unequal treatment in relation to both gender and family status.

In two other cases – Hospira and O’Neill -v- Fairview Motors Limited – awards were made for discrimination on the grounds of age. In Hospira the Equality Tribunal decided the Employer should not have offered reduced redundancy packages to Employees as they got closer to their retirement age. This is often seen in Ireland and the UK. Such redundancy packages were founds to be age discrimination.

O’Neill -v- Fairview Motors Limited was a case in relation to retirement ages being imposed automatically by the Employer. It was found by the Tribunal that the Employer has to justify the forced retirement of Employees on objective grounds, and not merely because of their age.

All of these decisions place an obligation on Employers to be very careful in relation to discrimination laws in employment. There are significant penalties for acting unfairly – as in the cases above. It is always useful to get legal advice before any decisions are taken in relation to Employees.

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