An new mum has won a case for unfair dismissal – after she was wrongfully sacked when she told her boss she was pregnant.
Aimee Sanderson, 27, alleged her boss Steve Brennan – founder of digital agency Bespoke based in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire – sarcastically said "Well that’s good news isn’t it" when she told him of her pregnancy.
The mother-of-one’s claims of unfair dismissal and unfavourable treatment were well founded, an employment tribunal found.
The hearing found in favour of Mrs Sanderson’s allegations and "that her pregnancy or intended maternity leave was a material factor in the decision to dismiss her".
The report said it appeared "Mr Brennan took a decision, even before disciplinary proceedings were initiated, that the claimant was to be dismissed and concerns were exaggerated in such a way as to attempt to justify a finding of gross misconduct."
Mrs Sanderson was thrilled when found out she was pregnant in July 2017 – just months after she had suffered a miscarriage earlier in the year.
However, when she told her boss she was shocked at his reaction.
Mrs Sanderson, who lives with her husband Dean, 33, and their son Charlie in Garstang, said she was hauled into meetings about her performance before she was eventually dismissed for gross misconduct in December 2017.
She said: “Some of the things the CEO said to me throughout those months were dismissive. I had thought I’d had quite a good relationship with him before.
“I became convinced it was because I was pregnant.”
Furious at her treatment, she took her case to an employment tribunal, which found in her favour.
Mrs Sanderson also claimed that after his response to her good news that she was pregnant, Mr Brennan also told her: “There’s just too many people in that team and not enough work, you know what that means don’t you."
She said that his words came across to her like a “veiled threat”.
She added: “His reaction was incredible. It knocked me off my feet.
“It was common knowledge in the office that I had had a miscarriage.”
Staff at the firm had been critical when she had called in to work with sickness relating to pregnancy and were "digging for information" from her colleagues to ask if she was under performing, Mrs Sanderson said.
Judge Slater said during the tribunal – which took place in Manchester on December 11 to 13, 2018 and February 1, 2019 – that “direct evidence of discrimination is rare".
He added: "We must consider what inferences we can properly draw from all the relevant surrounding circumstances.”
Ahead of a disciplinary hearing Mr Brennan set out his allegations in a letter to Mrs Sanderson.
The grievances listed included that she was not delivering on work promised to clients, which adversely affected the business’ relationship with the clients.
According to the findings from the tribunal, the letter stated the company’s viewed the allegations constituted gross misconduct.
In the concluding comments of the document which records the employment tribunal, the report concluded "that her pregnancy or intended maternity leave was a material factor in the decision to dismiss her".
The report said: “It appears to us that Mr Brennan took a decision, even before disciplinary proceedings were initiated, that the claimant was to be dismissed and concerns were exaggerated in such a way as to attempt to justify a finding of gross misconduct.”
Mrs Sanderson’s little child is now one year old, and after receiving the tribunal results she is now looking for a new job.
She said: “If I hadn’t taken the company all the way that I took them, what happens when the next person gets pregnant?
“The whole experience put a lot of stress on my marriage, my parents.
“But if you do something that you know in your heart is right then I think you are stronger from it.”
A hearing where judges will decide how much Bespoke Digital Agency must award Mrs Sanderson, takes place on Thursday, April 26.
Lauren Grice, head of partnerships at Bespoke said in a statement that the company would be appealing the tribunal judgement.
She said: “In 18 years as an employer we have consistently supported staff through family matters and have never before had to attend a tribunal.
“The employee was dismissed for reasons of performance and conduct in 2017.”
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