A woman has won a sex discrimination case against her employer – receiving a payout of £185,000 – after it refused to let her leave at 5pm.
Alice Thompson worked for London estate agent Manors and asked to work four days a week and leave the office at 5pm (rather than 6pm as was usual office hours) so she could pick up her daughter from nursery.
Company director Paul Sellar said this wasn’t possible, claiming the business could not afford for her to work part time. He also cited detrimental effects on the ability to meet customer demand and an inability to reorganise work among existing staff as reasons for declining her request.
The tribunal heard that Thompson had been successful at the agency, earning around £120,000 a year. However, when she told Sellar she was pregnant, the relationship began to deteriorate.
She told the court that, at a party celebrating her pregnancy, Sellar had said “For f*ck’s sake, why is she pregnant when we are doing so well? I was warned about employing a married woman of her age.”
She also claimed she was excluded when staff were taken on a trip to New York and a boat trip that involved drinking alcohol, which she could not as she was pregnant.
She was told to hand in her work phone and office keys when she went on maternity leave, making her feel like a “leaver”, the tribunal heard.
Flexible work requests
During her maternity leave there were 11 property deals due to close, for which she expected commission. She accused Sellar of disputing these deals.
She launched a grievance about the way her flexible working request was handled and left the company for good in December 2019.
Employment judge Sarah Jane Goodman found she had been discriminated against by the denial of her request, calling it an “injustice because of her sex”.
Another claim of harassment, focusing on comments made about her pregnancy, was unsuccessful. Judge Goodman added: “It is plausible that this was said as an unguarded remark after an evening of eating and drinking.
“It was not said to (her) face and possibly not in her hearing. In our finding, it was not harassment. If not said to her face, that was not its purpose; as an isolated remark, it lacked the strength to be intimidating or hostile.”
The tribunal awarded Thompson £184,961 for loss of earnings, pension contributions, injury to feelings, and interest.