A south Dublin car dealership recently told the Workplace Relations Commission it dismissed a teenage saleswoman because she was not hitting the sales target of twenty cars a month. It insisted it had “no knowledge” that she was pregnant at the time.

The worker said she had spent just four full months working there in her first sales job. Her evidence was that she told the company’s sales manager she was pregnant the day after her first scan appointment.

Following a two-day absence due to morning sickness, her new line manager called her in and told her, “The lads upstairs have had a chat and they’re deciding they’re going to let you go. They’re just not happy with the way things are going,” she said. Further noting that nothing was said to her about performance at the meeting.

Adjudicating officer Eileen Campbell closed the hearing and told the parties she would issue her decision in writing in a number of weeks.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011 cover employees in both the public and private sectors as well as applicants for employment and training. The Acts outlaw discrimination in work-related areas such as pay, vocational training, access to employment, work experience and promotion. Cases involving harassment and victimisation at work are also covered by the Acts.

The publication of discriminatory advertisements and discrimination by employers, vocational training bodies and employment agencies, e.g. trades unions and employer associations, is outlawed. Collective agreements may be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission for mediation or investigation.

The nine grounds on which discrimination is outlawed by the Employment Equality Acts are as follows: Sexual orientation and disability under Gender, religious belief, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins under Civil status, and Age, or membership of the traveller community under Family status.

Pregnancy-related discrimination is discrimination on the ground of gender and includes recruitment, promotion and general conditions of employment. You are also protected under maternity protection and unfair dismissals legislation if you are pregnant or have recently given birth.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called for a change in equality legislation to include discrimination on new grounds of socio-economic status and criminal conviction.

The call came in the body’s second set of recommendations to Government as part of a process of review of the equality acts that includes the Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2018 and the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney described the Government’s review of equality law as “a milestone opportunity for change”. She added, “The law must adapt to provide effective prevention of, and protection against, discrimination, now and into the future.”

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email info@nfg.ie.