Sack­ings costs two bosses

Taranaki Daily News - - Your Nation -

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.

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