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May 16, 2023

Mary is a retail worker who works in a pharmacy in Dublin city centre. She started working there pursuant to a written contract of employment in May 2019. Mary takes pride in her work and is especially interested in the range of natural and holistic medicines that the pharmacy sells. During the Covid outbreak, the pharmacy stayed open, and Mary has been working as normal.

She normally works from 9am to 5pm. Due to how busy the shop is, Mary rarely gets a full lunch break, even though her lunch break and breaks are set out in her contract. The customers are generally appreciative of the service the pharmacy provides however sometimes when issues arise with prescriptions customers can get very agitated and take it out on the staff.

When Mary started working, the pharmacy had a security guard, however he was unable to work during the Covid pandemic as he is immunocompromised. Mary understands that he left the country in the wake of the pandemic and a new security guard has not been hired.

The staff have been told that they have to “just manage” as best they can. Generally, Mary is able to deal with these confrontations with customers however there was one incident before Christmas when a customer threatened to punch Mary if she did not provide her with the medication he wanted.

Thankfully, one of the other customers was able to call the Gardaí and the customer was taken away before the confrontation escalated. Mary is very upset by this and asked her employer to try and find a new security guard. They have said this is not possible due to cuts due to the pandemic.

When Mary started working, she was told that there would be opportunities for her to take night classes in alternative medicines so that she would be able to assist the pharmacy in that area. Mary has the utmost respect for what might be called “mainstream” medicine and believes that holistic and natural remedies can be complementary rather than an alternative to prescription medicines.

She also realises that it is a growth area in the business and that customers are willing to spend money on these products. The head pharmacist has generally been nice to Mary, she respected that Mary was good with the customers and a team player.

However, the head pharmacist has been off on maternity leave for about a year and she was replaced by a locum (temporary stand-in) pharmacist who immediately took a disliking to Mary.

She constantly demeans Mary in front of the other staff and customers, saying that it is inappropriate for someone who believes in holistic and natural medicine to be working in a pharmacy, equating her interest in these areas with anti-vaccine beliefs.

Mary is of African descent and sometimes these demeaning comments tend towards racism, which is particularly upsetting for Mary. Mary sometimes does not want to go to work due to this behaviour, which was never the case before.

Before the locum pharmacist started, Mary only had good performance reports and she had been told verbally by her employer that she should start looking for a night course that would align with her interests and the pharmacy’s business needs.

However, now the locum pharmacist has been telling her employer that she is lazy and saying that the pharmacy should not waste its money on her and a holistic medicine course, and this has arisen in her most recent performance report.

This is really upsetting for Mary, and she has considered quitting her job as she feels like there is nothing else that she can do. She is left wondering what her options are. Prepare a letter of advice for Mary outlining her rights in relation to her job, including what her options are and how the Workplace Relations Commission works.



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