A woman who was sacked for planning to adopt a child has won a landmark employment tribunal case.
A tribunal ruled that Anna Coulombeau had been subjected to sex discrimination during her employment at Enterprise Rent-A-Car (UK) because of her plans to adopt and take leave.
It said she was dismissed for “genuine but minor” errors for which male comparators had only been reprimanded.
The Nottingham tribunal ruled: “Her manager saw her as likely to need time off for adoption purposes, including ultimately adoption leave, because she is a woman. It is why he orchestrated her dismissal.”
Coulombeau joined the car hire firm in 2004 and was described in appraisals as “fantastic” and “passionate” about her work. But, in the autumn of 2005, within weeks of starting pre-adoption courses, she was called to two disciplinary hearings, sacked for gross misconduct and had an appeal rejected.
The hearing heard that Coulombeau’s manager had told another colleague, when he heard about her adoption hopes: “Well, she’ll be no bloody use to me then.”
Since 2003, adopters have had extended rights, and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering said the case was “a wake-up call” for employers. Its chief executive David Holmes said: “An employee planning an adoptive family should be treated with the same consideration as an employee planning a birth family.”
Brice Adamson, UK managing director of Enterprise Rent-A-Car (UK), said: “It remains our belief that the intentions and motives of our management team in the East Midlands were correct at all times.”