Case Review: Housekeeper of wealthy countess fired following pregnancy discrimination

A housekeeper at the home of Maya Von Schoenburg, former wife of the Mercedes-Benz heir, was fired after getting pregnant and has been awarded £19,000 in damages for pregnancy discrimination.

Teresa Filipowska’s employer told her in her first year of employment that she must not get pregnant, and was required to discuss family planning issues with her.

An employment tribunal heard that after four years service at the Surrey estate, Ms Filipowska had become pregnant and was subsequently dismissed within three days.

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer fires, does not hire or in any other way discriminates against a woman due to their pregnancy or intention to become pregnant.

Maya Von Schoenburg explained to the tribunal in written evidence that it had been an “unfortunate coincidence” that she had to make Ms Filipowska redundant.

The housekeeper had lived on a cottage on the estate. In Autumn 2012, after discovering she was pregnant she informed her employer by email. Although the initial response was positive and congratulatory, it also suggested that Ms Filipowska ought to have discussed enlarging her family with her employer first.

A few days later the Countess emailed Ms Filipowska, explaining that she was no longer needed on the estate.

Ms Filipowska told the tribunal, “Losing my job meant that I would also lose the house I was in…I found myself in a panic wondering where I would find another job and what I would do to find alternative accommodation for my family.”

MS Filipowska commented further on her employer’s behaviour: “Nobody should be made to sit around a table and discuss intimate family planning issues.”

The employment tribunal found that Von Schoenburg’s rules about pregnancy were “intrusive”.

The tribunal found in favour of the Polish housekeeper and upheld her claims for unfair dismissal, unlawful discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and unpaid wages.