A mortgage company worker has won a £15,000 payout after her boss told her she ‘must have been having fun lately’ when she announced she was pregnant
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A finance worker has won a £15,000 payout after her male boss remarked she ‘must have been having fun lately’ when she told him she was pregnant.
Company director George Dodds initially ignored Bianca King after she told him she was waiting before making the inappropriate comment alluding to her sex life.
He then informed her she was being made redundant before withdrawing the dismissal when she told him she would be taking maternity leave, an employment tribunal heard.
Over the next few months, he began yelling at the mortgage administrator, once reducing her to tears after he criticized her in front of colleagues during a videoconference.
The treatment Mr Dodds gave her left Miss King stressed before the birth of her first child and she had to see her GP over her growing anxiety.
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The court has now ruled that she suffered pregnancy-related discrimination and awarded her £15,009.84 in compensation.
The hearing, held in Cambridge, was told that Miss King worked as a processing clerk for Mr Dodd’s Northampton-based company Mortgage Compare from September 2016.
In October 2018, she emailed Mr. Dodds, telling him she was pregnant and her baby was due in early March 2019. Mr. Dodds did not acknowledge receipt of the email.
About a week later, Miss King requested vacation leave. Mr Dodds granted it over the phone and acknowledged her pregnancy for the first time, telling her she ‘must have been having fun lately’.
The court heard Mr Dodds request a meeting with Miss King at the office in December 2018, where he handed her a letter saying she should be ‘terminated with immediate effect’.
Mr Dodds told her the company was in financial difficulty and could not continue to ‘keep her’. No other employee received such information.
He then took the letter back when she said she would be going on maternity leave in four months, saying “it changes everything”. I didn’t realize it was so soon,” the court said.
Labor judge Martin Bloom said: “It is obvious…that the threat of dismissal [Miss King] was only made to her following her notification… that she was pregnant.”
In December 2018, Miss King emailed Mr Dodds referring to the letter and her belief that she was “discriminated against” because of her pregnancy.
The court heard from Mr Dodds and then began to criticize Miss King.
He emailed her about her lunch hours, telling her to “make sure you leave on time and be back by 2pm” although her timing had never been an issue before.
The court heard he accused her of not emailing him and repeatedly yelled at her.
Justice Bloom noted: “This form of behavior aimed at [Miss King] by Mr. Dodds had not been in evidence before [her] pregnancy.
On such an occasion [she] was so upset she had to leave a group video call and went to the bathroom in tears.”
In January 2019, Miss King met Mr Dodds to discuss his request to take his vacation in 2019 before going on maternity leave. Mr Dodds agreed but described his request as ‘brazen’.
Judge Bloom said: “This was, in our view, an inappropriate comment and was aggravated by the fact that it was [her] last day of work before she takes her vacation and then goes on maternity leave.”
The court heard that when Miss King returned to work at the end of January 2019, her computer was shut down, she was denied access to all systems and told she was ‘not required to work’ .
She had to sit for several hours before being allowed to go home.
In February 2019, Miss King tried to contact Mr Dodds about her non-payment of maternity pay, but her claims ‘were largely ignored’.
In April 2019, Mr Dodds told Miss King that all employees would be converted to “self-employed status”.
The court heard she had emailed Mr Dodds asking for more information, only to receive a response that said: “It doesn’t surprise me.
You’ve been looking for a way to accuse us of this (the termination of his employment) for months.”
Miss King never returned to work for Mr Dodds, the court heard.
Judge Bloom said “These acts of adverse treatment were committed by [Mr Dodds] because [Miss King] had informed them that she was pregnant and that she had to take maternity leave and that she did afterwards.
“No legal or plausible alternative exists for this treatment.
“We have taken note of the fact that [Miss King] was extremely upset by the events.
“Her pregnancy was her first pregnancy and she was looking forward to the birth of her child. [She] was undoubtedly not only upset by the events, but became stressed.
“Eventually she had to see her GP and was prescribed medication for anxiety and stress.
“At a time when she should have been looking forward to the birth of her child, she had to deal with events…and a subsequent deterioration in her health.”