A finance worker has won a £15,000 payout after her male boss said she ‘must have been having some fun lately’ when she told him she was pregnant – before sacking her.
Bianca King was initially ignored by company director George Dodds when she informed him she was expecting, before he then made the inappropriate comment alluding to her sex life.
He then told her she was being sacked, but withdrew the dismissal when Ms King, a mortgage administrator, told him she would be taking maternity leave, an employment tribunal heard.
Over the following months, Mr Dodds began shouting at Ms King and, on one occasion, reduced her to tears after criticising her in front of colleagues during a video conference call, a judge was told.
Ms King says the treatment left her stressed before the birth of her first child and she had to arrange an appointment with a GP due to mounting anxiety.
An employment tribunal has now ruled she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination and awarded her £15,009.84 in compensation.
The hearing was told Ms King was a processing clerk for Mr Dodd’s Northampton-based firm Mortgage Compare from September 2016.
In October 2018, she sent an email to Mr Dodds informing him she was pregnant with a due date in March 2019.
However, the tribunal heard that he did not respond to the email.
George Dodds, director of Northampton-based firm Mortgage Compare, subjected Ms King to ‘unfavourable treatment’ a tribunal heard
Around a week later, Ms King requested some holiday leave, which was granted verbally over the phone, when Mr Dodds acknowledged her pregnancy for the first time.
He said she ‘must have been having some fun lately’, the tribunal was told.
Mr Dodds requested a meeting with Ms King at their office in December 2018, in which he handed her a letter stating she was to be ‘laid off with immediate effect’.
The company director told her the firm was enduring financial difficulties and could no longer continue to ‘keep her’, though no other employee was given such information.
But he took the letter back when she told him she would be going on maternity leave in four months, to which he responded ‘that changes everything’, the tribunal heard.
Employment Judge Martin Bloom said: ‘It is evident…that the threat of laying off [Miss King] was only made to her as a result of her notification… that she was pregnant.’
In December 2018, Ms King sent an email to Mr Dodds making reference to the letter and her belief she was ‘being discriminated against’ due to her pregnancy.
The tribunal heard Mr Dodds then began criticising Ms King.
He emailed her about lunch breaks, telling her to ‘please ensure you leave on time and return by 2pm’, despite her timekeeping never previously been an issue.
Mr Dodds also accused Ms King of not sending emails and shouted at her on several occasions.
Judge Bloom added: ‘This form of behaviour directed to [Miss King] by Mr Dodds had not been in evidence prior to [her] pregnancy.
Mr Dodds denies the accusations and says his solicitors are currently considering whether to appeal the tribunal’s rulings
‘On one such occasion [she] was so upset she had to leave a group video call and went to the toilet in tears.’
In January 2019, Ms King met with Mr Dodds to discuss her request to take her 2019 holiday entitlement prior to the commencement of her maternity leave.
Mr Dodds agreed to the request, but described it as ‘cheeky’.
Judge Bloom said: ‘That was, we consider, an inappropriate comment and was aggravated by the fact that it was [her] last day at work before she took the period of holiday and subsequently went on maternity leave.’
The tribunal heard Ms King returned to work at the end of January 2019, but her computer had been shut down and she was denied access to all system before being told she was ‘not required to work’.
Instead, she was required to sit around for several hours before being allowed to go home, the tribunal heard.
The following month, Ms King tried to contact Mr Dodds after not receiving maternity pay, but her attempts were ‘largely ignored’.
In April 2019, Mr Dodds told Ms King that all employees were being converted to ‘self-employed status’.
She then emailed Mr Dodds asking for more information, but received a reply saying: ‘This doesn’t surprise me. You have been looking for a way to accuse us of this (the termination of her employment) for months.’
Ms King never returned to work, the tribunal heard.
Returning a ruling, Judge Bloom said: ‘In our judgment the treatment that we have found constitutes “unfavourable treatment”.’
He added: ‘These acts of unfavourable treatment were carried out by [Mr Dodds] because [Miss King] had advised them that she was pregnant and due to take and subsequently did take maternity leave.
‘No lawful or indeed any plausible alternative exists for that treatment.
‘We have taken note of the fact that [Miss King] was extremely distressed by the events.
‘Her pregnancy was her first pregnancy and she had been very much 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 General Practitioner and was prescribed medication for anxiety and stress.
‘At a time when she ought to have been looking forward to the birth of her child she had to deal with the events… and a subsequent deterioration in her health.’
Speaking to MailOnline today, Mr Dodds denied making the comments about Ms King’s pregnancy and insisted no letter stating an intention to terminate her employment was ever handed over.
He said: ‘The only comment I can make is that the people representing us are considering an appeal.
‘The whole exercise was complete and utter lies. I am willing to give an independent IT expert access to my emails to prove it.
‘It took the tribunal two years to get to a hearing. We all suffered over that time.
‘It is quite appalling that this was not recorded so that we can provide what they were lying about.
‘Ms King made a statement that she was given a letter during a consultation with me and when I heard she was pregnant I took it back. I knew she was pregnant for weeks before that. The letter was never produced.
‘She was given everything she was requested following our consultation over her maternity leave. The meeting finished amicably.’