Employers accused of discrimination are often heard to claim that they had no inkling that the employee concerned had a protected characteristic. However, the case of a pregnant woman who was sacked whilst in the throes of morning sickness showed that Employment Tribunals (ETs) do not allow such assertions to pass untested.
The woman was employed as an administrative office worker at a pay rate of £250 a week after tax. Following two days of absence, suffering from sickness, she was dismissed on the basis that there was not enough work for her to do and that she was not very reliable. The person who dismissed her by text said that she was at the time entirely unaware that she was pregnant.
After she took action, an ET found that the decision-maker’s evidence was not credible or reliable. It found as a fact that, prior to her dismissal, the woman had told her that she was pregnant and had shown her a scan image of her unborn child. The woman had received no warning regarding her timekeeping and a lack of work to do was an implausible reason for her dismissal.
The ET noted that, shortly after her dismissal, the woman was diagnosed by her GP with hyperemesis, a severe form of morning sickness. It was more probable than not that this was the cause of her two-day absence. On that basis, the ET found that she was dismissed for a reason relating to her pregnancy or because of illness suffered as a result of her pregnancy.
The woman’s claims of unfair dismissal and pregnancy discrimination were upheld. Her former employer was ordered to pay her £6,479 in compensation, including £5,000 for injury to her feelings.