The former marketing director of a hotel group has been awarded over €315,000 by the Equality Tribunal after it found that she was discriminated against and victimized while pregnant.
Julie O’Brien was awarded the payout in a successful case against O’Callaghan Hotels, which is owned by Noel O’Callaghan, a Fianna Fail supporter, Bertie Ahern associate and uncle of Ryanair’s Michael O'Leary.
The group of hotels includes the Davenport, Alexander, Mont Clare and St. Stephen’s Green hotels in Dublin as well as hotels in Annapolis in the U.S. and Gibraltar.
A judgment published this week by the tribunal revealed that O’Brien became ill due to stress placed on her at work while pregnant.
The tribunal had heard that O’Brien was warned about the connections of the managing director, who regularly had lunch with the then-taoiseach (prime minister), in an attempt to convince her to take redundancy.
O’Brien was employed with the hotel group from May 2003 until March 2010. Sons were born in 2004 and 2008 and her daughter was stillborn in August 2009. During her first two pregnancies she continued to work for up to four or five hours a day during her maternity leave.
On the third occasion she told the company that as she has two miscarriages, she wanted to “have this child in peace.”
Prior to her return from maternity leave in 2008 she had requested to work a four-day week and said that the response of the managing director, O’Callaghan, was “volcanic”.
She claimed she was told by O’Callaghan that he would prefer for her not to be on the staff of O’Callaghan Hotels if she had a third pregnancy.
The company directors denied O’Brien’s version of events and said that she wanted to resign. They agreed that she performed very well in a very senior role in the company.
However, the tribunal equality officer Orlaith Mannion found that O’Brien was victimized and discriminated against.
She awarded €220,500, 21 months salary, for the harassment and discriminatory dismissal.
She was further awarded €94,500, nine months’ salary, for the distress caused by victimization.
The company was also ordered to pay interest on half of the compensation.