Single Mother Fired Amid Isolation Measures Receives Redress

“During the first interview, many employers ask you if you have children, and how you respond determines whether you will be accepted [for the job]”, A.L. recalled.

Employers’ hesitancy to hire mothers can continue affecting women even after they secure employment, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges that working mothers face.

A young, single mother of two, A.L. said that the COVID-19 pandemic not only created health instability, but also economic instability for her family.

On 18 October, her employer from Cetinje city in Montenegro fired her via a “Viber” message, while she was in self-isolation because of a COVID-19 infection in her home. The employer justified its decision by stating that she was absent from work. Nevertheless, this constituted wrongful termination of her employment contract.

After hearing about her case via the media, the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (TUMM) contacted A.L. to offer her free legal aid, and she accepted. In an interview with TUMM’s staff, she further explained the challenges that working mothers face with their employers.

“The employer did not understand that my child was sick and that I had to be with her at home or in the hospital. Due to these absences, my salary was reduced”, she said. “Motherhood is not protected at all. If children are the greatest wealth of this world, how can these things happen?”

Women facing labour rights violations suffer both financially and psychologically, she said.

“A woman feels guilty when her child has fallen ill, when she cannot go to work or when her salary is reduced. Surviving the month becomes a stress that effects the whole family”, she said.

To help her address these challenges, TUMM assisted A.L. in preparing a complaint against her employer. The organization also advised her regarding the appearance of her legal representative during the process of finding a peaceful settlement to these labour disputes. 

Due to the media exposure of this case, the employer contacted TUMM to present their side of the story. As a result of this conversation, the employer consented to resolving this labour dispute peacefully through the Agency for the Peaceful Settlement of Labor Disputes. The case was solved through a settlement, and A.L. received all of her prior, missed wages owed to her since she was wrongly fired.

Her employment ended on the day of the dispute resolution, before the Agency, and she was paid for arrears from the period of dismissal until the resolution of the dispute as well as the reduced salaries while she was on sick leave. The employer has taken all actions necessary to rectify the dispute.

Meanwhile, A.L. has begun her search for a new job. She used her right to register with the Employment Bureau as an unemployed person and job seeker.

A.L. received support, including this free legal aid, through TUMM’s action, supported by the Kosovo Women’s Network, Women’s Rights Center and their partners through the Action “Furthering Women’s Labour Rights”. It is financed by the European Union and co-funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida).