Woman Sacked After Miscarriages Wins Sex Discrimination Case

A female employee in Northern Ireland who had suffered two miscarriages and claimed that she had been sacked because of the corresponding time off work, has been awarded more than £12,500 by an Employment Tribunal.

Linzi Close brought a claim against Belfast Audi Limited on the grounds that it had discriminated against her when it terminated her contract in 2011.

The Employment Tribunal found in favour of Ms Close, agreeing that she had been “subjected to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of her pregnancy-related illness”. Ms Close was an administrative employee with the company and had been responsible for sales-related paperwork. She suffered a miscarriage in January 2011 when she was 10 weeks pregnant, and took just 1 week’s sick leave (her doctor had advised her to take 3 weeks). Ms Close told the Employment Tribunal that following her return to work, her manager had asked her whether she really had had a miscarriage or had she just taken a week off work.

At the time Ms Close said she had complained about her manager’s attitude but had decided not to launch a formal grievance. She had a second miscarriage in April 2011 and again took 1 week’s sick leave. Upon her return to work her line manager again made comments about her weight and diet. An appraisal meeting was subsequently held with Ms Close who was within her 6 month probationary period in her employment contract. The company decided to extend her probationary period on the basis that she had not been employed long enough to assess her performance.

Ms Close became pregnant again in June 2011, which unfortunately coincided with her wedding and annual leave. Pregnancy-related illness meant that she could not come back to work as scheduled in mid-July and remained on sick leave until early September. The employer, Belfast Audi Limited, claimed that whilst Ms Close was absent, they learned that she had not completed some paperwork in the proper way. The failure to complete this paperwork could have had implications for the Audi franchise and it decided to start disciplinary proceedings. Ms Close was dismissed by the company in October 2011.

The Employment Tribunal concluded that the paperwork had been incorrectly completed not by Ms Close but by a salesman within the organisation and that the company had appeared “predisposed” to end the employment contract with Ms Close.

The Claimant was awarded compensation in the amount of £12,521.