Mulla v Enigma Fashiions UK Limited & anor – company liable for pregnancy discrimination

In the case of Mulla v Enigma Fashiions UK Limited & R Rajshakha ET/2601433/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that Ms Mulla had been discriminated against because of her pregnancy  and was awarded £55,963.58 as compensation.

The facts in Mulla v Enigma Fashiions UK Limited & R Rajshakha

Ms Mulla commenced employment with Enigma Fashiions UK Limited (“Enigma”) on 17 December 2009 and was both an employee and director of the company, along with Raj Rajshakha. In 2015 Ms Mulla discovered that she was pregnant but experienced a significant pregnancy-related illness, leading to her giving birth six weeks prior to the expected date of birth. Ms Mulla was required to spend two weeks in hospital as a result of the pregnancy-related illness.

Whilst Ms Mulla was in hospital her fellow director, Mr Rajshakha, sought to remove Ms Mulla as a director and employee of the company. Ms Mulla was told that the company was closing and returned early from her maternity leave in order to determine the extent of the problems with the business; she was, however, denied access to the company’s premises three weeks after her return. Other employees of the business were also told not to speak to or contact Ms Mulla, and she was summoned to a disciplinary hearing on sham allegations.

As a result of Enigma and Mr Rajshakha’s conduct she resigned from her employment on 3 March 2016 and made Employment Tribunal claims for constructive dismissal, pregnancy discrimination, and breach of contract.

The Employment Tribunal’s decision

The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Rajshakha’s conduct amounted to pregnancy discrimination as well as constructive dismissal, and awarded Ms Mulla a basic award of £3,087.50, compensation for past and future loss of earnings £52,526.08, and damages for breach of contract of £4,055.  The Tribunal also found that the detriments that Ms Mulla had been subjected to fell within the ‘serious’ Vento band and awarded her compensation for injury to feelings of £10,000.

The Tribunal also awarded Ms Mulla a figure in respect of aggravated damages, as it found that a threat by the company to sue her for £300,000 in respect of company law issues (a threat which had not been followed through) constituted “high-handed, insulting and oppressive” conduct, as well as a campaign of text messages and letters (threatening disciplinary action for failing to respond to telephone calls and messages) which were sent to Ms Mulla by Enigma whilst she was recovering from giving birth.

Ms Mulla also made an application for her legal costs, which is due to be heard at a later date.

Our solicitors’ comments

Chris Hadrill, specialist employment at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers should take care to ensure that they treat women who are pregnant or on maternity leave (or intend to take maternity leave) fairly. In this case the Tribunal found that the Claimant had been treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy and awarded her substantial compensation – this may, in part, be a Pyrrhic victory, however, as on Companies House Mulla v Enigma Fashiions UK Limited is in liquidation.”

The remedy judgment in Mulla v Enigma Fashiions UK Limited can be found here