Woman with morning sickness told to ‘stop bullshitting’ wins £10,000
A recruitment manager has won nearly £10,000 in a pregnancy discrimination case after his boss told him to ‘stop getting upset’ when she said she was suffering from morning sickness. Manager Rosie Caunt asked Gemma Ferridge Gunn if her condition was ‘contagious’, how long she was going to be off work, then replied: ‘I’m sorry, I’m not friendly but I’ve never been pregnant”.
The mother-of-two was fired just eight days after telling her new employers she was pregnant and just two days after having to return home with morning sickness, an employment tribunal has heard. She has now successfully sued the recruitment firm she worked at for discrimination and has been awarded £9,594.22 in compensation.
Hearings in Liverpool were told that Ms Ferridge Gunn, 39, joined Blackpool-based Alcedo Orange as recruitment manager in January 2020. The company specializes in providing staff for nursing homes care and home environments.
Within weeks of joining, however, owner Andrew Boardman and Ms Caunt began to worry about Ms Ferridge Gunn, the hearing heard. “From the start, Mr. Boardman and his team found (his) attitude difficult,” the court said. “She didn’t immediately adapt to the culture of the organization, which was very team-oriented.
“(She) preferred to work independently and use her own systems and was unresponsive to advice…this caused resentment among her colleagues who found her dismissive and negative.”
On February 14, Ms. Ferridge Gunn had a meeting with Mr. Boardman and Ms. Caunt about her performance, who felt she had not yet “mastered” the job. Five days later she informed Mrs Caunt that she was pregnant.
“She was embarrassed to have to do this, having only recently started work,” the audience said. “Mrs. Caunt offered her congratulations. She said she would let Mr. Boardman know.”
Mr Boardman knew Ms Ferridge Gunn was expecting when they saw each other again on February 21. At that meeting, the hiring manager was able to show a “real improvement” in her performance, the court was told. The following week, however, she had to be fired from work by Mrs Caunt with morning sickness.
“That morning, after informing Ms. Caunt of her morning sickness, Ms. Caunt made the following remarks,” the court heard. “She asked if it was a virus, how long was she likely to be away and (said) ‘I’m sorry, I’m not friendly but I’ve never been pregnant’ , and also “Stop messing around and go home” and “is it contagious”.
“(Ms Ferridge Gunn) felt there was a lack of empathy on Ms Caunt’s part and she felt she was letting the team down.”
The next day – while still on sick leave – Ms Caunt contacted her to ask her to come to work the next day to reschedule her appointments. Ms Ferridge Gunn was present but had to leave early to attend her first appointment with a midwife, the hearing heard.
The court heard that in her absence, Ms Caunt had come to believe that Ms Ferridge Gunn was not doing her job properly and raised her concerns with Mr Boardman. On February 27, Ms Ferridge Gunn was asked to attend a meeting with Mr Boardman and Ms Caunt at which she was told she was being fired ‘as it wasn’t working and her performance was below average’ .
After leaving the company, she gave birth to a baby girl – Maisie – in October of the same year. She has an eldest daughter, Mia, 10 years old. Mr Boardman told the court she was fired for her poor performance, poor attitude and misled him about her improvement at the February 21 meeting.
However, the court – presided over by labor judge Ann Benson – found the decision to fire her was influenced by the pregnancy. “We consider it appropriate for us to draw any conclusions from the comments made by Ms Caunt when (Ms Ferridge Gunn) told her she was suffering from morning sickness, in particular the comments that she was unsympathetic and that she then contacted the applicant on February 25, 2020 asking him to come on February 26, 2020.
“Ms Caunt says… she was concerned about (her) health and as it was a care setting they were constantly concerned about diarrhoea, vomiting and other viral illnesses. We are seeing that the comments, particularly that she was not likeable, were underlined and showed a lack of empathy, and we further infer that Mrs Caunt was influenced in her opinion of (Mrs Ferridge Gunn) by the fact that she was pregnant and had to quit her job because she was unwell.
“When Ms Caunt spoke to Mr Boardman about (Ms Ferridge Gunn) she informed him that the recruitment process was not working and it was not viable to have her as a recruiter. In essence, Ms Caunt told Mr. Boardman (she) could not continue in her role.By doing this when she did, we consider that the Claimant’s pregnancy had a significant influence on her views.
Upholding her claim of pregnancy-related discrimination, the tribunal found: “(She) successfully demonstrated facts from which it can be shown that the decision to terminate her was on account of her pregnancy or related absence. to pregnancy.”
As evidence, the panel cited “the very timing of her notification to her employer, her absences for pregnancy-related reasons…and her attendance at a prenatal appointment the day before her termination.” “By February 21, 2020 (his) performance had improved and for the most part Mr. Boardman was happier with the way things were progressing.
“It was the report and discussions with Ms Caunt that changed her view and for the reasons set out above were significantly influenced by (her) pregnancy and her pregnancy-related absence.”
Ms Ferridge Gunn – who was represented at the hearing by her husband Jason – was awarded £9,594.22, including £6,000 for emotional harm. However, she lost her wrongful dismissal claim after the court ruled that although she had been discriminated against, her pregnancy was not the main reason for her dismissal.