£27,000 pregnancy discrimination award still unpaid after 13 months
Last year, the Industrial Tribunal awarded a Bangor woman compensation totalling £27,180.55 after finding that she had been subjected to pregnancy related harassment and discrimination and ultimately forced to resign. Thirteen months later, she has not received a penny of this compensation.
Gillian Robinson worked as a franchise support administrator for Frying Squad (Franchising) Limited in Bangor. The Tribunal found that Ms Robinson was a valued employee but that her previously harmonious relationship with the Managing Director of Frying Squad (Franchising) Limited, Michael Neill, “suddenly deteriorated and disintegrated” and that the reason for such disintegration was the news of Ms Robinson’s pregnancy.
A significant part of Ms Robinson’s compensation comprised an award of £18,000 for injury to feelings. The Tribunal classed this award as “substantial” and stated that the injury to feelings had arisen under a number of heads of claim. However, the Tribunal put particular weight on the hurt Ms Robinson suffered as a result of a specific comment made by Mr Neill when discussing maternity cover for her. The Tribunal found that Mr Neill had told Ms Robinson that cover needed to be arranged sooner rather than later “in case the arse falls out of things”. This comment was made as Mr Neill nodded at Ms Robinson’s stomach. The Tribunal found that Mr Neill was aware that Ms Robinson had previously had a miscarriage and it was clear that she perceived this comment to relate to the possibility of her miscarrying her current pregnancy. The Tribunal described this comment as “disgraceful” and found that Mr Neill’s conduct “[had] the purpose of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for [Ms Robinson]”
The decision in this case was made 25 April 2010. More than one year later, Ms Robinson has not received a penny of her compensation due to the insolvency of her former employer.
Ms Robinson’s solicitor, Caroline Maguire of Law Centre (NI), expressed frustration at the fact that her client has been unable to obtain her compensation,
“We are very disappointed when any client does not receive payment following a successful Tribunal hearing. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. The Law Centre is seeing an increase in cases where Tribunal awards are not paid out either because the employer has become insolvent or claims to be in financial difficulty. However, I am particularly frustrated for my client in this case because, in bringing her claim to the Industrial Tribunal, Ms Robinson had to revisit a deeply unpleasant time in her life. The case was a shocking example of harassment and discrimination against a pregnant employee.”
Ms Robinson has taken a philosophical approach to non-payment:
“I am obviously annoyed that I have not received payment of the award which is rightfully mine. I will not deny that the money would have been useful to me and my family. I am somewhat confused that Frying Squad (Franchising) Limited is insolvent and so can’t pay me but Michael Neill has a new company which is operating the franchising business and seems to be growing and doing well. There have been articles in newspapers recently highlighting the growth of his franchise business. We have done what we could to try to get payment but I am told I have to accept that the company is legally insolvent. Obviously I’m not very happy about this.
Despite not getting any money, I am still very pleased with the outcome of the case. I can now put this all behind me and get on with my life. I have another child now and I cannot stress enough that money could not buy the happiness I have with my family. Anyone who prioritises money in life is missing out on real happiness.”
Note:The Tribunal’s decision can be accessed on the website of the Office of the Industrial Tribunal and the Fair Employment Tribunal at: http://forms.employmenttribunalsni.co.uk/OITFET_IWS/DecisionSearch.aspx