£25,000 payout for Bangor woman because firm make her redundant after pregnancy
A Bangor woman has won a £25,000 settlement and an apology from an internship company in a sex discrimination case she claimed was linked to her pregnancy.
Ruth Faulkner was a work placement officer for Intern Europe Limited, which sources professional internships across Northern Ireland.
Assisted by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, she lodged a tribunal case alleging sex discrimination related to her pregnancy.
Intern Europe Ltd denied the allegation, but agreed to make a settlement before the tribunal and without admitting liability.
Ms Faulkner said that during her maternity leave she had asked to make a "small change" to the pattern of her working hours to help with childcare commitments. Instead, she claimed the company reduced her hours.
On the first day of her return from maternity leave she was called to a meeting where she was said to have been informed that her post was potentially at risk of redundancy.
Ms Faulkner alleged she was told the firm wanted to discuss an option with her where she would apparently "choose to leave rather than go through a formal redundancy situation".
She claimed she was informed that if she wanted to consider this option, she would have to leave the office right away.
"Before I told them of my pregnancy I felt I was a respected member of their staff and that my work was appreciated," said Ms Faulkner. "Afterwards, I felt isolated, excluded, sidelined and ignored. When I returned to work after the birth of my child, to be confronted with a proposal to terminate my employment, I was shocked and upset. There are better ways and fairer ways within the law to treat people."
Ms Faulkner said the case was settled before it went to a tribunal.
Equality Commission senior legal officer Mary Kitson said: "In settling this case, Intern Europe apologised to Ms Faulkner for any injury to feelings, distress and upset caused. It also affirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity and undertook to liaise with the Equality Commission."
Intern Europe Limited said: "As a business we were facing financial difficulty, we were looking at having to make some hard decisions, and cost savings was a part of that. We stated that we in no way selected the claimant because of her pregnancy, or issues related to it, and have not accepted liability. We accept the process of approaching the claimant caused upset, which is regretful, but was never intentional, and we sincerely apologised for this.
"We entered into an agreement with the claimant via the Equality Commission to settle the claimant's claim. The settlement was, from our point of view, a commercial choice which also brought about what we feel was an amicable end to the claimant's employment, as well as an end to her claims.
"Any compensation paid was paid as a whole based on all of these aspects. We are happy to work with the Commission on reviewing any policies, and as a business we want to ensure we have fair and transparent policies in place."