Sackings costs two bosses
TWO employers have been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in compensation for wrongfully dismissing two employees after they became pregnant.
Former Auckland bar manager Sophie Melrose was awarded nearly $36,000 in compensation and lost wages, while former waitress Doris Chiu was awarded more than $22,000, in two separate cases decided by the Employment Relations Authority.
Ms Melrose was demoted from her job as general manager at The Vulcan bar in December 2007, a week after she told her employers she was pregnant.
She was fired in January this year after bar director Antony Bell accused her of lying about the hours she had worked.
She has since given birth to a healthy baby boy, but said the loss of her job marred her pregnancy. ‘‘I lost all my maternity leave. ‘‘It was very, very stressful for me and my partner. I found myself always having anxiety attacks — my midwife was constantly checking my blood pressure.’’
Ms Melrose said she was relieved to have won her case.
‘‘I always knew that what had happened was wrong but to have that verified by a court was so good.
‘‘I just felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders.’’
Doris Chiu was fired from her job at the New Deli Cafe in Albany in August 2007, a few weeks after she told her employers she was pregnant.
Her employers, Lina Megawaty and John White, claimed she had failed to provide proof of her entitlement to work in New Zealand, despite being a New Zealand resident. However, Ms Chiu provided evidence that suggested her employers had dismissed her in an attempt to cover up the fact they had only paid one month of her PAYE tax to Inland Revenue.
That information would have been discovered when Ms Chiu applied to Inland Revenue for maternity and parental leave. ERA member Alastair Dumbleton said Ms Chiu, who represented herself throughout the case, had been humiliated by being called ‘‘a liar and a fraud, and a fabricator of evidence’’.
‘‘Her memory of the birth of her child will long be marred by what happened when she told her employers she was pregnant.’’
Mr White said yesterday he was considering challenging the decision.
‘‘We’re being shown as people who discriminate against pregnant women when we’re not.’’
Maternity Services Consumer Council coordinator Lynda Williams said the cases made her despair.
‘‘I can just imagine what it took for [those] women to have to go through all this while [they were] pregnant.’’
She hoped the cases would act as a deterrent to employers who considered such behaviour tolerable. Wellington employment lawyer Peter Cullen said firing someone because they were pregnant was a breach of the Human Rights Act, because it amounted to sexual discrimination.
The two cases were unusual, Mr Cullen said.
‘‘It’s not often that people get discriminated against like that.’’ Fairfax
Former Auckland bar manager Sophie Melrose, with son Lukus, says being fired marred her pregnancy.