€63,000 has been awarded to a receptionist by The Equality Tribunal after it found she was discriminated against on the grounds of gender and race, and subsequently victimised.

Sylwia Wach, a Polish receptionist began working at the Waterford Travelodge in 2007 where she was initially employed as an accommodation assistant before becoming a receptionist one year later.  Ms Wach went on maternity leave on 23rd March 2011 before returning on 21st September 2011.

On her return from maternity leave, Ms. Wach found her hours reduced, and also found that the company brought in a staff member from Cork to do shifts when Ms. Wach was available.

Her manager allegedly expressed annoyance when he learned that she had raised this matter with their HR manager. He further stated that Ms. Wach’s contract was only for 24 hours, and that therefore, that was all she was entitled to.  Ms. Wach outlined that those 24 hours were “minimum hours”, and that, on agreement with the previous manager, she had been working full time for the last three years.

Her HR manager also accused her of not having sufficient English to work the job.

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Ms Wach sent a written complaint about all the matters to her manager in October 2011 and as a result, a meeting was held in November 2011. Ms. Wach told the tribunal that following the complaint, her manager allegedly threatened to look through CCTV footage for any possible wrongdoing by her, where she was accused of selling alcohol to non-residents.

Equality Officer Stephen Bonnlander outlined that he was satisfied Ms. Wach was fluent in both written and spoken English and that Ms. Wach’s manager was “determined to make life difficult for her”.

In his judgement Mr. Bonnlander said:

“I find that the complainant is entitled to succeed in her complaint of discrimination on the ground of gender, with regard to her conditions of employment. I do not accept the complainant’s manager’s statement with regard to the complainant’s proficiency in English, and therefore do not accept his reason for not assigning her day shifts, I find that the complainant is also entitled to succeed on her complaint of discrimination in her terms and conditions on the ground of race.”

In accordance with Section 82 of the Acts, Mr Bonnlander ordered that Travelodge pay the Ms. Wach:

(i) € 21,000 which equals one year’s salary for the complainant according to her P60 form for 2010 in compensation for the effects of discrimination and

(ii) € 42,000 or the equivalent of two year’s salary in compensation for the effects of victimisation. This reflects the seriousness of the finding that the complainant found herself immediately threatened with false disciplinary charges when she exercised her right of complaint under the respondent’s own policies.

He also said that the awards were in compensation for the distress suffered by the complainant and are not in the nature of pay and therefore not subject to tax.

Do you want to protect your business with Ireland’s leading HR and Employment Law experts ? If so, please feel free to contact The HR Company on 01 2911870.

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