Eilise Walker was put in a position where she felt both ‘intimidated and degraded’ by her employer, Arco Environmental, because of the potential inconvenience and negative impact her pregnancy would cause the company.
After three weeks of joining the firm, Walker announced that she was pregnant and, just days later, Walker informed the tribunal ‘it was clear’ that Steve Rees – her commercial and financial director – and his wife Adele Rees, did not want to speak with her.
Attempting to engage in conversation with Mrs Rees, Walker showed her a picture of her pregnancy scan, to which Mrs Rees asked if she had been trying to get pregnant. The same afternoon, Walker went to a meeting with Ron Heyfron, the managing director of the firm, and Jim Grant, Walker’s line manager. Heyfron admitted to the tribunal that he inappropriately asked if she knew she was pregnant when she accepted the job and that he “probably did panic about the HR issues” the pregnancy would cause.
Worried by the context of the meeting, Walker sent a message to Grant saying that she hadn’t intended to create any problems for the business and ‘wouldn’t take a job for maternity pay’.
At a final meeting, which was held on the 13th December, Walker submitted her resignation letter.
Employment judge, Bernice Elgot, ruled:
“The conduct of the meeting… and the failure of the respondent to respond in any way to Walker’s concerns amount to unfavourable treatment because of her pregnancy and harassment.
“We find the effect of the events which took place at work… was to harass the claimant by violating her dignity. The harassment related to her protected characteristic of sex because, as is axiomatic, only women can be pregnant.”
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