Discrimination – Pregnancy

Discrimination – Pregnancy

The following example shows employers the importance of following all the proper procedures and guidelines. In this example, an individual had worked for her employer, a small family-run photographic business for over 12 years.

The owners of that business were planning for their retirement and told the individual of their plans to leave  the business to their son (also an employee) and the individual.

Nothing changed until September 2012, when the employee informed her employees that she was pregnant, and planned to take a short period of maternity leave in March 2013 and wished to return part-time thereafter.

Almost immediately the attitude towards her changed and it was this change in attitude along with changes in behaviour that led the Court to find that they engaged in conduct which constituted unlawful discrimination and adverse action.

Some of the behaviour included:

  • setting new and unrealistic sales targets
  • telling her she had to work whatever hours to meet them and failure to would impact salary/bonus/job
  • She was told to take long service leave because it wasn’t a good look to have a pregnant women in the business
  • If she worked pregnant, the owners argued they would have been made to look like they were forcing her to work
  • She was told she could not return part-time after the birth of her child
  • She was told she might not even have a job if she chose to return
  • The two owners also behaved in a abusive manner in meetings towards the employee

As a result of these behaviours, the employee felt forced to leave her employment. The judge who reviewed the case awarded $200,000 and also made the following comments:

“Regardless of the size of the business or its financial position, an employer cannot be absolved of its legal responsibilities to comply with the law… Further, the Respondents cannot hope to have their conduct, in effect, exonerated merely because they claim to be impecunious.”

In simple  terms, just because you are small, doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the fair work act. HR Central are here to assist you to ensure you are covering all your legal requirements.

Michael O'Shaughnessy

Michael is a specialist in all things HR. With vast HR experience in the USA and Australia, Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and advice to HR Central. When he's not blogging for HR Central you can find him out for dinner in one of Melbourne's newest restaurants.

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