Donna Patterson, a mum of two, has been awarded £60K after representing herself in the Employment Tribunal. She has no legal training but was determined to bring herself to justice after being discriminated against based on sex by Morrisons.
What Exactly Happened?
Ms Patterson began working for Morrison back in 2008 but then left the business. She then came back in 2018 and joined their online sales team. However, things changed in 2020 when she left for maternity leave; she was pregnant with her second child.
She was informed that the company was restructuring the online team while on maternity leave and told there would be a job for her. However, when she returned to work in August 2021, she did not get any information regarding her new role. Plus, on contacting the HR manager, she received no replies.
Eventually, in August 2021, HR let Ms Patterson know that she had been shifted to the core grocery team. To top that off, she mentioned her managers were not happy about her working from home or working half days because of her children. Upon trying to appeal their decision, she was told that these kinds of moves happen all the time. Ms Patterson said there was no discussion on the matter, and she was expected to comply.
Upon starting work, she informed her manager that she didn’t have agreed-upon shift patterns for the new role. That’s when she was told she would be working full-time, which was not ideal given that she had young children.
During the course of her employment, she felt gaslighted into taking on more work and was often criticised. She even tried to tell people that she cannot do it, but they only asked her to “prioritise”. In December 2021, she had to take time off work because of work-related stress. By March 2022, she handed in her notice to leave.
After she quit, she requested access to a data subject and came across proof that her employers were planning to demote her while she was pregnant. This is when she decided to take legal action but realised that she couldn’t afford employment lawyers.
She got in touch with a charity called Pregnant Then Screwed, an organisation that works with mothers who have been through something similar. She represented herself in front of the Employment Tribunal. For her trial, the charity coached her on what she should be expecting plus helped her cross-examine witnesses.
What The Employment Tribunal Said
Upon hearing the evidence and the statements, the Tribunal found that Ms Patterson had faced constructive dismissal. Her dismissal was also classified as unfair and said to have amounted to indirect sex discrimination.
In a statement released by Morrisons, they said they had been misrepresented as they welcome mothers from maternity leave. They are also considering appealing the decision.