Belfast Telegraph

Receptionist at Belfast Audi was sacked for being pregnant

Woman endured cruel jibes in work after she suffered two miscarriages, then was fired when she got pregnant again

by CATHERINE McCURRY

A receptionist who was sacked from her job because she was pregnant has won a landmark case her solicitor described simply as "shocking".

Employment lawyer Stephen Mearns said no woman should ever have to endure such treatment.

An industrial tribunal found that Linzi White, who worked as a sales administrator for Belfast Audi Limited from 2010 until 2011, was a victim of unlawful sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The 27-year-old was awarded £12,500 in compensation after she was unfairly fired from her post for being pregnant.

The Bangor woman, who has since moved to New Zealand with her husband and young daughter Annabel, also endured lewd comments from a co-worker after she suffered two miscarriages.

Seven of Mrs White's co-workers, including managing director Richard Eakin, denied the allegations. However, the tribunal found in favour of Mrs White, citing evidence from the firm's employees as contradictory and evasive.

The court heard Mrs White suffered discrimination from management right up to the managing director. Mr Eakin was accused of refusing Mrs White's appeal of her dismissal and neglecting to investigate her grievance for sex discrimination.

Delighted by the court's decision, Mrs White said she wanted to expose her former employer who sought to cover up the truth.

She told the Belfast Telegraph her case proved these types of cases are still rife in workplaces.

"I knew that car sales was a male-dominated profession, but I was sickened by their actions and how I was treated after suffering two miscarriages," she said.

"This type of discrimination still exists in the workplace and I hope this case encourages other women who have suffered in a similar way that they shouldn't be afraid to challenge their employer.

"It took a lot of guts to get this far but I knew I was telling the truth so I was confident about the end result.

"The treatment I endured was awful and it felt as though I had been betrayed. For me it wasn't about compensation, it was about exposing the truth which my old employer tried to hide."

A few months after Mrs White began working for the Belfast-based company, she discovered she was pregnant with her first baby. Just 10 weeks into her pregnancy she suffered a miscarriage and took a week off work to recover from her distressing ordeal.

Upon her return, a co-worker, Colin Pedlow, questioned her miscarriage and suggested it was an excuse to take a week off work.

Mrs White was then subjected to lewd comments from Mr Pedlow about her weight and eating habits. Mr Pedlow told Mrs White, then Miss Close, she should drink less cola, eat fewer fries and she should do more exercise.

It was revealed in court the comments made Mrs White feel the miscarriage was her fault because she was overweight. In April 2011, Mrs White suffered a second miscarriage and subsequently took another week off, despite her doctor advising three weeks' leave as she was worried it would jeopardise her employment.

Two months later, the day before she was due to marry her fiance Declan, she discovered she was pregnant again.

In September 2011 she returned to work after weeks in hospital with severe pregnancy sickness. It was then Mr Eakin approached her about disciplinary action over her absence. Meetings with management then resulted in her dismissal as Mr Eakin claimed her work suffered due to her time off.

Mrs White wrote numerous letters appealing the dismissal but was never acknowledged.

She said her sacking changed her life.

"Audi was the only reason I moved to New Zealand," she said. "I was six months' pregnant and had no job and with the recession, no hope of getting one. I was going to lose my house and everything."

Her solicitor Stephen Mearns said the treatment Mrs White received was shocking.

He said: "It's something that no woman should put up with.

"It's a case that's emerging more and more because women are coming forward. I would single this out as the dismissal, in terms of the discrimination, extended from the management up and reached the managing director.

"I hope more women who have suffered this way come forward."

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