Worker who claims she was told job moving boxes was ‘only for men’ wins €7,500 gender discrimination case

Hi, I'm Larry And This Is My Brother Darryl Lifting A Box The Wrong Way And This Is My Other Brother Darryl Lifting A Box The Other Wrong Way

28 March 2024

A worker who claimed that the company she had worked for told her that a position moving boxes was “only for men” has been awarded €7,500 after a ruling of gender discrimination.

The Workplace Relations Commission has directed SSL Ltd, trading as Source & Supply Logistics Limited, to compensate a former employee, Jess Quinn on foot of her complaint under the Employment Equality Act 1998.

Ms Quinn, a temporary employee at the firm whose contract was coming to an end in March 2023, decided to apply for the vacancy even after being told it was “only for men” because of the weight of the boxes, she told the employment tribunal.

The tribunal heard Ms Quinn had worked for the company from December 2022 to March 2023. After being told on Tuesday 28 February that her contract would expire that Friday and was not going to be renewed, she and her colleagues were told there about the vacancy for a manual handling position.

The job involved moving boxes weighing between 7kg and 15kg around a HSE building at Merlin Park University Hospital in Galway, the tribunal was told.

Ms Quinn’s evidence was that at a meeting with two representatives of the company, she was told the job was “only for men because of the weight of the boxes and that stairs that would have to be climbed with the boxes”.

She added that she told the company representatives the restrictions were “sexist” and applied for the job anyway but was not called to interview. Instead, two men she had trained were hired, she added.

She told the WRC that before she took the job with SSL, she drove a heavy goods vehicle and “was lifting much heavier items than the boxes”.

The sole company witness who gave evidence, Pearse O’Donohue, was not one of the representatives noted by the WRC as having met with Ms Quinn. However, Mr O’Donohue denied that the open job was only available for men.

His evidence was: “A risk assessment was done. The outcome was that the work needed to be done by two people who were able bodied and stronger; not necessarily male, just stronger.”

Although the use of lifting aids was considered for the work, it was “not possible” to bring them on to the HSE site, he added.

He accepted that there had been no assessment done to see whether Ms Quinn could lift the boxes without risk of injury.

Mr O’Donohue added that although Ms Quinn was asked to stay on another week so that the firm could find her a new role “she didn’t want to stay”.

In her decision, WRC adjudicator Niamh O’Carroll wrote: “The respondent stated that whether someone was a male or a female wasn’t the issue, it was the person’s capabilities in relation to lifting boxes.”

She wrote that Ms Quinn was “informed” by a company representative that “due to the nature of the role and in line with the [Health and Safety Authority] guidelines on lifting, that only males would be considered”.

“They did not ask the complainant if she was physically capable of lifting the boxes. They did not give her a trial run. They simply said that she would not be suitable,” Ms O’Carroll added.

Ms O’Carroll said she was “fully satisfied” the worker had raised the inference of discrimination on gender grounds and that the company “failed to establish that there was no infringement of the principle of equal treatment”.

She ruled the complaint to be well-founded and awarded compensation of €7,500.

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