Chicken firm to pay €17,000 to woman dismissed over miscarriage

Company said it apologised to Ms Petrova after finding out she suffered a miscarriage

 

A Co Mayo based chicken processing firm has been ordered to pay €17,000 to a woman it unfairly dismissed while off sick after suffering a miscarriage.

In the case, it is alleged that a female payroll employee at Western Brand Group Ltd told 37-year old Bulgarian Aneta Petrova that she was “sick for too long” when dismissing her on December 29th, 2015.

This was 12 days after Ms Petrova was diagnosed with having an ectopic pregnancy on December 17th, 2015.

The night before, she was brought by ambulance to the emergency department at Mayo University Hospital after fainting at her home.

On December 21st, a medical certificate was delivered to Ms Petrova’s employer, the Western Brand Group Ltd’s offices in Ballyhaunis, confirming that Ms Petrova had suffered a miscarriage.

Eight days later on December 29th, Ms Petrova said she was sacked summarily over the phone after an employee at the firm’s payroll office told her that she was “sick for too long”, that she was suspended and that her P45 would be sent out to her.

Ms Petrova – who has a master’s degree in European Law – worked on the firm’s chicken fillet line at its Ballyhaunis plant.

Medical cert

Before the Labour Court, the group pleaded that it didn’t realise that Ms Petrova was pregnant or had suffered a miscarriage at the time of dismissal and that her medical cert confirming the miscarriage was not seen by payroll before the call was made to dismiss her on December 29th.

The company stated that after finding that Ms Petrova suffered a miscarriage, it subsequently apologised to Ms Petrova and said that she could re-apply for her job when she returned to full health.

Ms Petrova – who has since had a baby boy – sued for unfair dismissal. In its ruling the Labour Court found that the Western Brand Group Ltd was aware that Ms Petrova’s illness related to her pregnancy and miscarriage at the time of dismissal.

The Labour Court stated that this finding was based upon evidence from the female Western Brand Group employee who sacked Ms Petrova on instruction from a superior.

The court found that the person stated in evidence that the Western Brand Group was, at the point of Ms Petrova’s dismissal, aware of the reasons for her unavailability for work and this was connected to her pregnancy and miscarriage.

The Western Brand Group was appealing an earlier Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer ruling which found that Ms Petrova was unfairly dismissed and awarded her €12,000.

The Labour Court ruling has now upheld the unfair dismissal ruling and increased the level of compensation to €17,000.