Male beauty therapist loses gender discrimination case

Kerry native said it was ‘unfair’ to expect him to have enhanced skill for manicures as a man

Niall Fitzgerald said the beauty therapy industry was a hard place to be for a man ‘because it is 99.9 per cent female’. File image: Gretchen Ertl/The New York Times

Niall Fitzgerald said the beauty therapy industry was a hard place to be for a man ‘because it is 99.9 per cent female’. File image: Gretchen Ertl/The New York Times


A male beauty therapist who failed to nail down a job at a Dublin beauty salon has lost his discrimination claim that he was let go because he is a man.

In the case, Niall Fitzgerald commenced work at MudPie Beauty Cottage at Dundrum Town Centre last June but got the chop on his sixth day after his nail work wasn’t deemed up to standard.

The multi-award winning beauty salon is owned and operated by one of Ireland’s best known models, Sara Kavanagh and at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing into the case, the salon refuted the proposition that Mr Fitzgerald’s employment was terminated due to him being a man.

Mr Fitzgerald (32) from Tralee, Co Kerry, brought his unsuccessful discrimination case under the Employment Equality Acts and he claimed that he was indirectly discriminated against by Mudpie Beauty Cottage as it didn’t make allowance for the fact that, as a man, he would not be as familiar with certain applications he believes women perform as a matter of course.

Mudpie Beauty Cottage told the hearing that it was a commercial decision in letting Mr Fitzgerald go as his experience was not a match for the particularly fast-paced salon.

Mr Fitzgerald told the hearing that it was “totally unfair” to give him just six days before terminating his position stating that he is a beauty therapist “whose expertise had not even been tapped into”.

He told the hearing that he didn’t apply for the position of nail technician. While he said his nail standard was perfectly good at the time, he emphasised that his real skill-set lay in facials and skin treatments.

He further argued that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his gender as it was unfair of Ms Kavanagh to expect him to have an enhanced skill for manicures and shellac applications in circumstances where he was a man and therefore would not have been self-administering files and polishes.

However, the salon said it made it clear to Mr Fitzgerald that nails, manicures and shellac treatments would have to be part of his skillset if he was to achieve a position with them.

The WRC report records that Mr Fitzgerald was the only male out of 18 to apply for a post at the salon and, judging by the documented exchange with Ms Kavanagh, Mr Fitzgerald’s gender made him a more exciting candidate for the job.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath reported that during the interview process, the job interviewers were very taken with Mr Fitzgerald, deemed him to be a good fit for the salon and were willing to give him a position, paying about €11 per hour.

However, problems quickly emerged during Mr Fitzgerald’s induction days, and by June 27th last, the salon had assessed that whilst Mr Fitzgerald had shown improvement it could not afford the time required to bring him up to the standard required.

The salon denied that ending Mr Fitzgerald’s employment had anything to do with him being a man citing many occasions where it had previously let go beauty therapists who weren’t performing good enough work quickly enough.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Fitzgerald said that he was disappointed with the outcome of the case but happily he had secured alternative employment as a beauty therapist at a different workplace in Dublin.

He said the beauty therapy industry was a hard place to be for a man “because it is 99.9 per cent female and the majority of clients are female, but hopefully it is gong to change”.

“I have moved on and I love where I work now where the manager has seen my potential. My nail work has really come on. I love what I do so it has all worked out for the best in the end.”

Mudpie Beauty Cottage has not responded to a request for comment.