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WRC considers issues of Gender, Strength and Discrimination

This week we look at a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) employment equality case in which the Adjudication Officer was required to consider whether the Complainant was discriminated against based on her gender in relation to a new role with the Respondent. Our Elizabeth Murphy highlights the key points to note in the case of Quinn v. Source & Supply Logistics Ltd, ADJ-00046698.

Ms Jess Quinn began working with the the company on the basis of a temporary contract in December 2022. The contract was due to expire on 3 March 2023. On 21 February 2023, the Complainant was given notice that her contract was due to expire and she was apparently told that it would not be renewed. Later that week, the Complainant was informed that a position was available in a different location. This alternative position was to be a manual handling role that required carrying boxes weighing between 7kg and 15kg.

Ms Quinn alleged that she was told that only males would be considered for the role due its nature and due to Health & Safety Authority (HSA) guidelines on lifting. She contacted the HSA directly and was informed that their guidelines were just just that: guidelines.

The company disputed Ms Quinn's version of events. It submitted that that gender was not the determining issue. A risk assessment had been carried out and it was decided that two able-bodied and strong people were needed for the roles. The company added that the decision was made in the interests of health and safety and contended that female applicants were never ruled out.

The evidence suggested that Ms Quinn was not asked if she could lift the required weights and that she was not given a trial to demonstrate her capabilities. She submitted that she had carried out similar roles in the past, even lifting heavier weights, all while being well trained in manual handling.

The Respondent stated that they did consider lifting aids for the role but ruled them out as the location was not suitable for them.

Ultimately, Ms Quinn applied for the vacant roles but was not offered an interview. Two male colleagues were given the jobs. Ms Quinn stated that this affected her confidence and left her feeling humiliated. She left the company when her temporary contract ended and refused the company’s offer to stay on for another week so that they could try to find her another role.

The Adjudication Officer found that Ms Quinn had established a prima facie case of discrimination on the ground of gender and that the Respondent failed to show that there was no infringement of the principle of equal treatment. On that basis, the Complainant was awarded compensation of €7,500 under the Employment Equality Acts.

Employers who require advice in relation to equality issues or any aspect of employment law can contact our Adrian Twomey.


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