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Zahra Publishing Ltd, the publishing group behind ‘EveryMum’ and cookery magazine EasyFood ,was found to have breached the Employment Equality Act 1998 by dismissing Sandra Varian four months after she told the company’s CEO she was pregnant. 

Having started with the firm on 1 July 2021 as group sales director, the female employee advised the company on 5 August that year that she was 12 weeks’ pregnant. “He seemed a little surprised,” the employee said of the CEO. 

The firm’s commercial director met with the employee on 21 September 2021 and discussed issues including the quality of presentations. Formal and informal meetings between the employee and the firm’s commercial director followed in October and November, the tribunal was told. The director stated  the employee’s target for the second half of 2021 was €250,000 in new and repeat business, a target cut first to €225,000 and again to €100,000 to be achieved by 13 December.

He said the CEO “contacted the company’s solicitor seeking legal advice in relation to the complainant’s poor performance” on 5 November 2021. Ms Varian said the commercial director told her on 16 November that she was “coming under pressure about her figures” and the CEO “seemed very dismissive”.

The employee said she asked her boss whether it was “goodbye” if she failed to meet the target of €100,000 in sales by 13 December. He replied that it was “looking that way”, she said.

In a meeting on 28 November 2021, the employee accepted she had “failed to meet the reduced target of €100,000” and said the job “was not what she thought it would be”, a representative for Zahra Publishing stated. The firm informed the complainant by email on 13 December that her probationary period would not be extended and her employment was being terminated.

However, the Workplace Relations Commission heard evidence from a former colleague of the complainant who said she had “less sales” than the employee – but had her probation extended. The employee’s solicitor stated that the firm “saw her pregnancy as an issue and would have extended her probationary period if she had not been pregnant”.

The Adjudicator Officer the evidence was that the employee had notified the CEO of the company that she was pregnant on August 5th, 2021, and that a first “performance issue” was raised on September 21st that year. He noted the evidence of the other former sales executive, who had stated that her probationary period had been extended despite having cleared a lesser volume of sales. “It is my conclusion that the complainant would have had her probationary period extended if she had not been going on maternity leave; this would have been an opportunity to convert some of the business in the pipeline and develop new business in the new year,”.

Upholding the discrimination claim on the grounds of gender, he ordered the company to pay the employee €32,500 in compensation, equivalent to six months’ salary.