A woman who was dismissed from her job with a wedding planning website after she wrote blog posts about her pregnancy for a website set up by her husband has taken an unfair dismissal case against the firm.
Deirdre Zaidan took the case against Weddingsonline.ie Ltd before an Employment Appeals Tribunal at the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin on Wednesday.
The tribunal heard Ms Zaidan worked from the company from 2006 until September 2014 and earned about €27,000 per year including commission.
She was dismissed at that time after it came to the attention of the chief executive Peter Bryans that she had been involved with what the company claimed was a "competing website".
The company examined Facebook posts and also emails sent to Ms Zaidan’s husband, who had established the website Babytime.ie. The issue became a disciplinary matter and Ms Zaidan was dismissed for what the company claimed was gross misconduct.
Counsel for Ms Zaidan said she was not employed by a competitor, but was at that time pregnant and had written “very innocuous and harmless” posts about her pregnancy for the other site.
The tribunal heard the content of one of the posts under the name ‘Mammy of Three’ read: “Feeling good this week. Just need to stop eating so much rubbish. Chocolate Easter egg still in the house.”
Counsel said the Babytime site could not be viewed as a competitor of Weddings Online because it was not making any money and had in fact generated just €149 in income in a year compared with some €1.3 million generated by the weddings site.
Ms Zaidan accepted it had been her choice to deal with the disciplinary matter before she had her baby.
She had just wanted to get it “behind her and focus on her confinement and the healthy birth of her child”, counsel said.
Ms Zaidan had been due to commence maternity leave on September 11th and was dismissed on September 2nd. Her baby was born on the 28th of that month.
She would give evidence that she lost almost half a stone in weight in the last month of her pregnancy, that she was not sleeping and was very anxious about the situation.
Counsel said Ms Zaidan believed her employers would realise that their reaction had been “grossly disproportionate” to what she was engaging in and she believed that engaging in the disciplinary action in advance of her maternity leave would give her a chance to restore her good name.
In its response, the company said that while the Babytime website may have generated a small amount of money, its case was that Ms Zaidan was engaged in a practices that could potentially have generated further revenue and attracted advertising to that business.
There had also been emails sent back and forth between Ms Zaidan and her husband during working hours about the Babytime website and her posts for that site.
The company also alleged a Google Analytics document sent from Ms Zaidan’s account was “highly confidential” and breached the terms of her contract.
Tribunal chairman Dermot McCarthy will hear witnesses at a full hearing of the case in September.