A young mum has been awarded £18,000 (€20,000) damages after her boss made “shockingly cruel” comments about her pregnancy.
Chinese takeaway boss Kian Lee has been slammed by an industrial tribunal panel over his “shockingly cruel” treatment of Derry woman Finvola McMullan.
The Belfast tribunal heard that when Ms McMullan, who had previously suffered a miscarriage, told Mr Lee she was pregnant again, he replied: “Are you serious? How long before you can lose it?”
The owner of Derry’s China Garden had previously refused to pay Ms McMullan her holiday or sick pay, even when she suffered a miscarriage.
Following the case, Ms McMullan (28) told Sunday Life she was relieved her ordeal was over and hoped her case would encourage others to resist such behaviour in the workplace.
“I want to speak out so that other people being victimised will have the courage to stand up to these bad bosses. People are afraid to speak out because their bosses have money and power and they are little. They think no one is going to help them.”
“I just want to let people know that the small people can speak up too,” added Finvola, who is now a mother to seven-month-old Holly.
The tribunal panel found Lee had treated Finvola in a “vindictive and callous” fashion.
In its published judgement, the panel, chaired by Employment Judge Brown, said: “She was humiliated over a period of time. Kian Lee’s indifference to her around the loss of her first baby was compounded in this case by his expressed wish that she would ‘lose’ her second child, and is viewed by the tribunal as shockingly cruel.”
The tribunal heard that after Ms McMullan said she was pregnant Kian Lee continued to be aggressive towards her, at one time snapping dockets out of her hand. He also said he was reducing her work to one night per week.
The tribunal found that Lee and co-respondents A Best Rice Ltd, both trading as the China Garden, had discriminated against Ms McMullan on the grounds of her gender and ordered them to pay her £18,000 for injury to feelings.
It also ordered them to pay her £756 holiday pay and a further £300 for unlawfully deducted wages.
The respondents did not appear in court and were not represented. The panel said it found Ms McMullan to be a credible and compelling witness.
On the basis of her unchallenged evidence, it found the respondents treated Ms McMullan less favourably because she was pregnant.
It said: “The evidence as to the timing of Kian Lee’s change of attitude towards the claimant, namely: when she told him she was pregnant again; the action he took in his aggression and comment about ‘losing’ it; the severe reduction of her hours; and the failure to pay her sickness benefit and her maternity pay, give rise to a clear and compelling inference that the claimant was being punished for causing inconvenience by being pregnant.”
Mrs McMullan told Sunday Life after the judgement was published: “I worked in the Chinese restaurant since 2013.
“I fell pregnant in 2016 and unfortunately lost the baby. I took just three days off work and informed my boss, Kian, what had happened. I was in shock, I really didn’t think I would lose the baby. I was heartbroken.
“I fell pregnant again in January 2017 and after my first scan, when I knew everything was fine, I told my boss. He said, ‘How long will it be before you can lose it?’. I asked him what he said and he repeated the same thing. I was so taken aback. I didn’t know what to say. I said that I thought I was OK because I had my first scan. I was completely shocked by what he said. I just felt really uncomfortable.
“It was a really awful question to ask someone so soon after losing a baby. There I was, a little baby growing in my belly and there was my boss almost wishing me to have a miscarriage.
“It stressed me out so much. And the more stressed out I got the more worried I got about the effect it was having on the baby. I was so scared, thinking I was going to lose her too.”
When contacted by the Sunday Life, Mr Lee said he had no comment to make on the matter.
Finvola said: “From all the years I worked for him I never had an issue, until I got pregnant. To me I was victimised because I was pregnant, which I don’t think is right.”