A Belfast care worker has been awarded almost £10,000 after an industrial tribunal found she was subjected to sex discrimination by her former employers.
Helen Wilson, 42, had been with the Provincial Care Agency in Carryduff over a year before taking maternity leave in December 2008.
When she returned to work the following August she was unable to agree a shift pattern to suit childcare arrangements with her employer and resigned.
When she said she would leave because of the dispute she was told: "This is what happens when you have babies."
The Equality Commission of Northern Ireland (ECNI) supported her claim after she found a job offer but was unable to take it up because Provincial Care failed to provide a reference.
The tribunal said it was: "A deliberate attempt on the part of the respondents to discredit the claimant, to humiliate her before the tribunal and to sully her reputation."
It awarded £6,000 for injury to Mrs Wilson`s feelings and £3,500 damages.
Mrs Wilson said: "Because of the delay in giving me a reference I was twice denied the opportunity to take up posts which I had been offered. At that time, with a young child and in need of a job, this was very stressful and distressing. I am glad that the tribunal has marked the injustice of treating someone in this way just because they have had a baby."
The tribunal found that the Provincial Care Agency delayed and prevaricated in providing a reference despite numerous requests made by Mrs Wilson, by the company offering her the new job and by the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
It added the agency did this knowing she would be unable to obtain employment without a reference and it was because of this behaviour that she was deprived of the job. It said that constituted sex discrimination as it involved the fact that she had a baby and added the agency treated her less favourably than a male worker to whom they had provided a reference.