compensation | 

Hyatt Centric hotel group made director redundant after she told them she was pregnant

G roup ordered to pay €85,000 compensation to ex-sales boss pledges to appeal WRC ruling

Hyatt Centric hotel in Dublin's Liberties

Gordon Deegan

A firm that operates the €50m four-star Hyatt Centric hotel in Dublin made a sales director redundant three weeks after she informed her bosses that she was pregnant.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator John Harraghy has ordered Realmside Ltd, trading as the Hyatt Centric, to pay €85,000 compensation to Orla O’Keeffe after concluding that the dismissal was based on Ms O’Keeffe’s gender and a breach of the Employment Equality Act.

Mr Harraghy said the hotel firm had failed to prove that Ms O’Keeffe’s dismissal by reason of redundancy was unconnected with her pregnancy.

The Hyatt Centric’s managing director, Declan Curtis, said the hotel had only been made aware of the WRC’s decision today and planned to appeal it. “The hotel would not condone or practise any form of discrimination towards its employees in the workplace and would have an excellent track record in this regard as an employer,” he said.

The Hyatt Centric, near St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, opened in January 2020 and is the O’Sullivan family-owned Hodson Bay Group’s first foray into the Dublin market.

The hotel shut down temporarily on March 20, 2020, due to Covid-19 and Ms O’Keeffe became pregnant the same month.

Ms O’Keeffe told the hearing that she told the hotel’s MD that she was pregnant on May 6, 2020, and informed the commercial director on May 8.

On May 27, Ms O’Keeffe was called to a meeting and told by the hotel’s MD that her position was no longer “financially viable” and she would be made redundant on June 5.

In evidence, Ms O’Keeffe – who took up her role on June 4, 2019 – confirmed that she received no explanation in relation to the reasons behind “financially viable” and was not afforded any opportunity to make representations on her own behalf.

Derek Dunne BL, instructed by Kearns Heffernan Foskin Solicitors, advanced the case on behalf of Ms O’Keeffe at the WRC but no one attended the WRC hearing on behalf of the Hyatt Centric firm.

Mr Harraghy stated that the only evidence from the Hyatt Centric was a letter sent to the WRC on November 11, 2020.

“I was not in a position to verify or test the details contained in that letter at the hearing and I do not attach any weight to that submission,” he said. Mr Harraghy found the failure of the hotel to provide written details to Ms O’Keeffe that her dismissal was for grounds not connected with her pregnancy and maternity “leads me to find that this was a discriminatory dismissal based on the complainant’s gender”.

Mr Harraghy said Ms O’Keeffe had suffered a loss of earnings, loss of her statutory rights to maternity leave “and clearly suffered a lot of stress and distress as a result of her dismissal”.

In evidence, Ms O’Keeffe confirmed that she understood the challenges posed by Covid-19 and was willing to consider redeployment within the group or any other alternatives, but her employer did not discuss, explore or offer any alternatives to redundancy.

Ms O’Keeffe stated that due to her dismissal she had had to relocate and has suffered financial and non-financial loss and damage as a result of the dismissal.

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