Solicitor Sacked After Revealing Pregnancy Wins £26K in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Solicitor Sacked After Revealing Pregnancy Wins £26K in Pregnancy Discrimination Case
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Solicitor sacked in Mrs M Dobson v Michael Cook Law Firm has been awarded over £26,000. The employment tribunal found that the law firm had terminated the legal professional’s employment upon discovering her pregnancy. Join us as we delve into the details of this case, exploring the sequence of events and the tribunal’s judgment.

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Solicitor Sacked After Pregnancy is Disclosed

The Law Firm Offers a Promotion

Mrs Dobson began working as a conveyancing solicitor for Michael Cook Law Firm on 22 August 2022. She was contracted to work 24 hours weekly, earning an annual salary of £21,000.

In January 2023, the firm’s director, Michael Cook, requested a meeting with Mrs Dobson. Unaware of the meeting’s agenda, her husband joked that she might be receiving her P45. During the meeting, Mr Cook offered her a promotion to become the firm’s second director, with a pay review scheduled for August.

READ: £5m Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Had “No Prospect of Success”, Says Tribunal; Greycoat Executive to Pay £225K in Costs

A few days later, Mrs Dobson emailed Mr Cook, expressing her thoughts on the proposal. She was willing to accept the promotion and additional responsibilities but requested an immediate pay rise. She also stated that if an immediate raise was not possible, she was content to remain in her current position.

Subsequently, the law firm considered Mrs Dobson’s request but deemed her proposed salary of £30,000 unreasonable given the slow market conditions. Instead, they offered her a salary of £24,000.

Mrs Dobson responded, insisting she would not accept less than £30,000. She explained that the promotion entailed additional responsibilities and that £24,000 would only match the salaries of two unqualified colleagues. While she appreciated the opportunity, she would only accept it if the salary met her expectations.

Solicitor Sacked Unexpectedly

Further discussions about the promotion took place on 1 February 2023. During the conversation, Mrs Dobson invited Mr Cook to her car for a private word. There, she disclosed that she was nine weeks pregnant but wished to keep the news private until her 12-week scan.

Mr Cook initially congratulated her but later stated that he would “just have to leave it” regarding the promotion. Mrs Dobson was not upset about the promotion falling through, though, as she was content in her current role as a conveyancing solicitor.

However, on 28 February, the solicitor was sacked unexpectedly with immediate effect. She received no prior warning, no opportunity to discuss alternatives, and no chance to appeal the decision. The dismissal was attributed to a poor “economic climate”.

Employment Tribunal Proceedings are Initiated

Understandably shocked and upset by the sudden dismissal, Mrs Dobson struggled to accept the decision. On 3 March, after regaining her composure, she raised a grievance, questioning the legitimacy of the ‘redundancy situation’ and alleging that her rights during pregnancy had been breached.

Shortly after, Michael Cook Law Firm appointed Rob Heerin HR Limited to handle the grievance. Without meeting Mrs Dobson, the HR consultant emailed her the outcome a few weeks later. They stated that her appeal had been unsuccessful and that the termination was not due to her pregnancy.

Solicitor Sacked Initiates ET Proceedings.
She claimed that after disclosing her pregnancy, her promotion offer to director was withdrawn, and her employment was subsequently terminated.

As a result, Mrs Dobson initiated employment tribunal proceedings, claiming pregnancy discrimination. She asserted that “after disclosing her pregnancy… the offer of being promoted to a director was withdrawn and her employment was summarily terminated.”

Tribunal Dismisses Firm’s Arguments

When the employment tribunal examined the facts of the case, they questioned Mr Cook’s motives. After Mrs Dobson disclosed her pregnancy but expressed her willingness to become a director, Mr Cook said he’d “just have to leave it”. The director claimed he meant that it wasn’t an appropriate time to discuss work matters immediately after her pregnancy announcement.

The tribunal did not accept this explanation. Instead, they concluded his comment indicated he was no longer willing to proceed with her promotion because of her pregnancy.

Then, the tribunal examined the law firm’s justification for Mrs Dobson’s dismissal. The firm contended that financial struggles necessitated cost-cutting measures, which led to her termination. However, after reviewing documents submitted during proceedings, the tribunal found that the firm had been profitable before her dismissal.

READ: Employee Called to HR After Laughing at Co-Worker’s Baby Names: When Should HR Get Involved?

Moreover, the tribunal discovered that the HR consultant’s grievance outcome letter failed to address Mrs Dobson’s concerns regarding breaches of her rights during pregnancy. It was revealed that the HR consultant did not discuss the issue with her and merely provided a letter prepared by the law firm. The tribunal also noted that the firm was aware she couldn’t file an unfair dismissal claim, as she had not yet been employed for two years.

Consequently, the tribunal ruled that there was no genuine redundancy situation, and the circumstances of the solicitor’s dismissal constituted pregnancy discrimination. Considering the financial and emotional impacts that ensued, the solicitor sacked for disclosing her pregnancy was awarded £26,474.91. This sum included compensation for injury to feelings, loss of earnings, interest, and a 20% uplift due to the firm’s failure to adhere to the Acas code of practice.

Need Employment Law Help?

If you believe you’ve faced pregnancy discrimination or had your maternity rights breached, contact Redmans Solicitors now. They have years of industry experience and can provide specialist advice on your case. To begin, simply fill in their online form.

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