Female employee awarded almost £20,000 after being threatened with sterilisation at work (Ms B Djagbo v Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd: 2300737/2020)
In the case Ms B Djagbo v Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd 2300737/2020 the Employment Tribunal found that a pregnant employee had been discriminated against by her employer when she was told, among other things, that she must attend work unless she had been hit by a car, awarding her almost £20,000 in compensation.
The facts in Ms B Djagbo v Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd
Ms Djagbo commenced employment with Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd (“WMD”) as a medical secretary on 1 October 2018. During the course of her employment she alleged that she was being discriminated against because of her pregnancy, as follows:
- The way in which her manager, Ms Tezcan had dealt with her following a mistake she had made sending an incorrectly headed email;
- Derogatory comments Ms Tezcan had made about her pregnancy and the fact that she was aged 25, made to her job-share work colleague Ms Ita and in front of patients;
- False accusations of theft made against her husband;
- Comments that she may not come back to work after her maternity leave and that she wanted to be a housewife;
- A statement that she would ‘sterilise’ her or ‘put a coil in me that would last 10 years;
- Lack of work breaks;
- The events over the night of 29/30 November 2019 where Ms Tezcan expected cover in the office from Ms B Djagbo or her job share colleague, Ms Ita and the comments by Ms Tezcan ‘it’s not that you’re having a traffic accident’ and ‘unless you are dying it is not acceptable not to come’ in a conversation in relation to Ms B Djagbo’s pregnancy;
- Her removal from the Whatsapp chat and website and request to return keys;
- Lack of communication from that point.
On 9 December 2019 Ms Djagbo lodged a formal grievance setting out the above complaints. WMD failed to promptly investigate the complaint.
On 2 January 2020 Ms Djagbo emailed Ms Tezcan to ask if she had been dismissed; Ms Tezcan replied to say that she was not dismissed, she was on maternity leave.
Later In January 202 Ms Djagbo contacted ACAS as the grievance had not been dealt with.
On 3 December 2020, following a period of pregnancy-related illness lasting a couple of days, Ms Djagbo indicated to WMD she was well enough to return to work but was told not to by Ms Tezcan. Ms Djagbo’s name was then removed from the website and the Whatsapp group chat, asked to return her keys, and left with the impression she would not be coming back to work. Ms Djagbo was also informed that Ms Tezcan would not work with her anymore. She did not return to work after that assuming her employment had been terminated and brought a claim for pregnancy & maternity discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal
The Employment Tribunal found in favour of Ms Djagbo in respect of the following claims:
- Pregnancy & maternity discrimination (section 18 Equality Act 2010)
- Unlawful deduction from wages
Pregnancy & maternity discrimination
The Employment Tribunal held that the following acts & omissions had amounted to pregnancy & maternity discrimination:
- Ms Tezcan telling Ms Djagbo on 29 November 2019 that she should come to work the following day unless she was dying or had been in a traffic accident;
- Mr Tezcan telling Ms Djagbo on 2 December 2019 that she need not return to work even though she was fit to do so because cover had been obtained for her; and
- Ms Tezcan telling Ms Djagbo that from 1 January 2020 her part time role would cease to exist and that she would be expected to return full time
Unlawful deduction from wages
The Employment Tribunal held that Ms Djagbo’s wages had been unlawfully withheld in respect of holiday pay that she was owed.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Djagbo the following sums as compensation for the discriminatory acts:
- Loss of earnings: £3,459.99 (representing three months’ net loss of earnings plus interest)
- Injury to feelings: £12,000(plus interest of £1,517)
- ACAS uplift of 10% in respect of the organisation’s failure to deal with the grievance process (£1,773).
- Unlawful deduction of wages: £288.45.
The total sum awarded to Ms Djagbo amounted to £19,797.76.
Our lawyers’ views on the case of Djagbo v Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd
Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must ensure that they treat pregnant employees fairly, otherwise they face potential claims for discrimination as in this case. Discrimination claims can be costly and reputationally-damaging, and employers should also take allegations, or claims, of discrimination seriously.”
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Djagbo v Women’s Health Dulwich Ltd 2300737/2020 can be found here.