01/06/2020 - 06:00
By Seán McCárthaigh
A Kerry patisserie has been ordered to pay a former pastry chef €33,600 after ruling she was dismissed from her job as a result of her pregnancy.
The Workplace Relations Commission ruled that David Aranda Petit Delice, which operates outlets in Killarney and Caherciveen, had discriminated against Jessica Padayachee on grounds of both gender and family status.
The WRC, however, ruled that Ms Padayachee’s claim that she had also been discriminated against on race grounds was not well founded.
Ms Padayachee claimed she was forced out of her “dream job” as a result of her pregnancy.
The WRC heard Ms Padayachee felt under pressure to begin work a week earlier than scheduled on March 1, 2019 but was reluctant as she had no PPS number.
She claimed it was made clear by Mr Aranda’s mother that the company would change its mind about applying for her work permit if she did not start work on February 25.
Around March 24, 2019, at a time she realised she was pregnant, Ms Padayachee sought to get a signature to complete the process for getting her work permit.
When informed about her pregnancy, she claimed Mr Aranda’s mother said the company was no longer sure if it wanted to go ahead with getting her a work permit.
When she went to Ms Aranda on March 30 to get a signature, she was informed they were not going ahead with the work permit application and would not be paying her for the month as she had no PPS number.
The WRC heard she had only been paid €450 for the work she had done in February and she and her boyfriend were forced to take out a sizeable loan from the bank after losing her job.
Ms Padayachee said she felt she wasn’t worth the trouble to get a permit on grounds of her gender, family status and race and was dismissed as a result.
Mr Aranda denied that Ms Padayachee had been dismissed because of her pregnancy and claimed she had stopped work of her own volition.
The businessman said she failed to demonstrate her suitability as a pastry chef as she did not have the required precision and knowledge of French patisserie.
He claimed she was unable to take instruction in a positive manner, which had caused problems for him and other staff.
Mr Aranda said a decision to change Ms Padayachee’s role in the business was made on March 15, 2019, at a time he was unaware she was pregnant but he admitted never communicating such plans to her at any stage.
The WRC was provided with references from two former employees who said they were treated very well while pregnant.
The WRC ruled that it was clear Ms Padayachee’s pregnancy was the only reason her work permit application was not processed and in turn that she was dismissed.
In awarding compensation of €33,600, the WRC said it had taken into account not only that she had suffering financial loss also but also that the discrimination had resulted in her not being able to secure a work permit or PPS number.
WRC adjudication officer Caroline McEnery said other factors were that Ms Padayachee had no employment and had received no maternity benefit “which was clearly distressing in her vulnerable position”.
Ms McEnery said it was important that the level of compensation awarded was “proportionate, effective, and dissuasive”.
The WRC ruled out reinstatement or re-engagement instead of compensation as the relationship between Ms Padayachee and the company was “irreparably damaged”.