Pregnant worker unfairly dismissed after director’s ‘panic about HR issues’

By Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR

An office worker was subjected to a ‘hostile, humiliating and offensive environment’ after she informed her employers that she was pregnant shortly after joining the company.

Eilise Walker started working for Arco Environmental in November 2017, taking over the role of office manager.

After three weeks, Walker informed her bosses that she was pregnant.

Walker claimed that the company’s financial director and his wife, who worked in purchasing, ignored her following the news of her pregnancy. She said: “It was clear neither of them wanted to talk to me.”

Walker’s line manager conceded that during a meeting he had inappropriately asked her if she knew she was pregnant when she took the job.

Walker sent a message to her line manager that read: “Sorry to bother you at home. I went home quite upset after the chat today. I hadn’t intended creating a problem for the business. I wouldn’t take a job for maternity pay. Can you pass this on and let me know where I stand please?”

She resigned from her role in the following days.

The Employment Tribunal heard Arco’s managing director admit he “probably did panic about the HR issues” upon hearing about Walker’s pregnancy.

Employment Judge Bernice Elgot said that Walker was “in a situation where none of the senior managers had dealt with maternity arrangements before”. She added: “We find that the effect of the events which took place was to harass the claimant by violating her dignity and creating a hostile, humiliating and offensive environment for her. That harassment related to her protected characteristic of sex because, as is axiomatic, only women can be pregnant.”

The court ruled that Walker had been subjected to unfair dismissal. The financial award will be determined at a later hearing.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect or employment law then please contact Joanne Stronach on 01228 516 666 or email her here.

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Throughout my claim, I felt completely confident that you had my best interests at heart. The advice you gave us throughout was clear and not misleading, and again I felt the advice given was best for me, not best for you or your firm.

Client 28th May 2015