Ice Cream Parlor Employee Alleges Baby Failed to Recognize Her Due to Long Working Hours

by Alice

A former employee of an ice cream parlor, who claims to have worked up to 90 hours per week, asserted at a tribunal that her prolonged working hours resulted in her baby son failing to recognize her by the time her employment concluded.


Speaking at the Workplace Relations Commission, the worker described her grueling schedule: “When I finished, I don’t know nothing, just the work, 7.30 am to 10.30 pm.” She further elaborated on the impact of her extensive hours on her family life, stating, “I go home, wash, make food; the kids [are] asleep. When I go to work, the kids [are] asleep. When I finished work, my baby had one year, and he don’t know me; he don’t know to say ‘mama’, because I don’t have time for them.”

Representing the worker, barrister Lars Asmussen highlighted an alleged comment from the worker’s employer referring to her as “the perfect machine who takes care of anything.” Asmussen also accused the employer of producing falsified documents in response to the worker’s complaints regarding employment rights.

Anita Popa, the Romanian national and mother of two, filed statutory complaints against Melt Gelato Ltd, the operator of an ice cream parlor and café in Navan, Co Meath. Her complaints included being underpaid, subjected to excessive working hours, denied breaks, deprived of maternity leave entitlements, discriminated against, and unfairly dismissed following an alleged assault by a colleague.

During the hearing, Popa denied having seen or signed roster documents produced by Melt Gelato Ltd, claiming they were “fake.” She asserted that the initials “A.P.” on the documents were not her signature.

In response to the allegations, Billy Wall of Peninsula Business Services, representing the company, denied the accusations of unreasonable hours and underpayment, stating, “My client offered gainful employment… she was paid for the hours that she did work.”

Popa, assisted by a Romanian-language interpreter, testified that she initially worked 12-hour days, which later extended to 15 hours a day with the opening of a second shop. She described instances of working alone for extended periods, citing minimum weekly hours of 50 and occasional weeks exceeding 80 hours.

Allegations were also made regarding monitoring through CCTV and alleged threats made after Popa disclosed her pregnancy.

The case was adjourned by adjudicator Roger McGrath, with cross-examination of the complainant scheduled for the next hearing date, to be determined by the Workplace Relations Commission.


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