Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

£20,000 payout for mum told to work harder to compensate for being a woman

Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn.
Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn.
Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn.
Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn
Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn.
Lauren McGee complained of age and sex discrimination after a job offer was withdrawn.

A young Northern Ireland mum who was allegedly told that she would have to work harder to compensate for being a woman has received a £20,000 payout.

Lauren McGee said she was subjected to a series of discriminatory put-downs after being offered a job at the Coleraine branch of Edmundson Electrical.

The 23-year-old was given a management trainee position, but it was withdrawn after she complained about comments allegedly made by John Bailie, a male manager at the company.

Ms McGee was allegedly told that women of child-bearing age were a hassle and mothers do not make managers. She was also allegedly told to work harder to compensate for her looks and the fact she was a woman.

Mr Bailie denied making the remarks, and said any comments made were taken out of context.

The mother of a two-year-old son took a case supported by the Equality Commission which was settled for £20,000, without admission of liability by either party.

Last night Ms McGee said she felt vindicated.

“I am one of many women who are discriminated against every day because of their sex,” she said.

“When I tell this story to others, it astounds me how many women have had to deal with discrimination much worse than what happened to me, but just did not have the means to fight their cases.”

Ms McGee, from Portrush, graduated in criminology in 2012 and gained a graduate management trainee position with Edmundson Electrical. She was due to start work last June.

She visited the company a few days before her start date and alleged the manager, Mr Bailie, told her she would struggle because she was a young woman — claims which Mr Bailie denied.

After Ms McGee reported the exchange to the company handling the recruitment process, the offer of the post was withdrawn.

She appealed this decision but complained that at the hearing she was made to feel that she was to blame for reporting the matter.

Ms McGee alleged she was discriminated against because of her sex and then victimised because she had complained about it.

The settlement comprised £17,500 from Edmundson Electrical and £2,500 from Mr Bailie.

Both said they regretted any injury to feelings, upset and distress suffered by Ms McGee.

The company agreed to meet the Equality Commission to review policies, practices and procedures to ensure they are effective and conform with equality legislation.

Ms McGee said the incident left her distressed.

“I thought I had obtained a secure job in my own locality with all the security that meant for me and my child, and this was taken from me,” she added.

“I did not have the money to fund the case myself and, rather than give up, I turned to the Equality Commission. It’s thanks to them that I was able to pursue the case and eventually obtained a settlement, which I accepted.”

Anne McKernan, director of legal services at the Equality Commission, said sex discrimination complaints were the second largest area of complaint.

“Lauren’s story shows all too clearly that women’s full and equal participation in the workforce and the economy is still some way off,” she said.

Edmundson Electrical was contacted but did not respond to requests for a comment.

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