A garage worker has won almost £20,000 after her boss disciplined her for being late due to morning sickness before she had a miscarriage.
Laura Herring missed the start of three shifts and admitted she was ‘struggling’ with early mornings in the first few months of her pregnancy.
An employment tribunal heard her managers failed to consider stopping the sales assistant lifting heavy bundles of newspapers and pints of milk that could have injured her or her baby.
And after she suffered a miscarriage her boss ‘harassed’ her by repeatedly asking for information from her GP about why she was still off sick.
While still grieving for her lost child, the tribunal heard distressed Mrs Herring was fired for her absence.
Now the tribunal has ruled she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination and awarded her £19,974 in compensation.
Laura Herring missed the start of three shifts and admitted she was ‘struggling’ with early mornings in the first few months of her pregnancy. Pictured: Mount Hill Garage
The hearing was told Mrs Herring started work as a sales assistant at Mount Hill Garage in Halstead, Essex, in 2017.
The tribunal heard she had told her employers she was pregnant in January 2018 and felt unwell in her first trimester as she was suffering from morning sickness.
On a morning in February 2018, she felt particularly unwell and this made her late for a shift in the garage’s shop.
She apologised to her line manager Vanessa Johnson and sent a text saying: ‘Seemed to be struggling with the early morning but my midwife tells me it should stop around week 14.’
Mrs Herring was then given a verbal warning for her late arrival to work on three occasions.
The hearing was told Mrs Herring started work as a sales assistant at Mount Hill Garage in Halstead, Essex (pictured), in 2017
Employment Judge Bruce Gardiner said: ‘The decision to issue Mrs Herring with a verbal warning was an act of direct discrimination because of illness suffered by her as a result of her pregnancy.
‘Mrs Herring was ill with pregnancy related sickness and it was that sickness that delayed her arrival at work.’
The tribunal in east London heard Mrs Herring had to carry milk containers which weighed around two stone from outside of the shop to the inside fridge.
She also had to carry heavy bundles of newspapers – which could have injured her or her baby.
But the garage failed to carry out a risk assessment of her work duties, the panel found.
In March 2018 Mrs Herring was later signed off work sick because she was hospitalised due to high blood pressure. The next month her baby was found to have died.
The tribunal heard she delivered her baby – who she and her husband named Harrison – and suffered further health complications caused by the ending of the pregnancy.
As Mrs Herring was off work and grieving for her son, her boss John Lovric, Managing Director of the garage, asked she provide medical proof of why she was off sick.
A letter was sent to the garage from a private occupational health provider which gave detail on how Mrs Herring was coping with the loss of her baby.
It said: ‘Mrs Herring is currently not fit for work. I would hope that if she can access counselling soon, she would be fit to return in the next four to six weeks.
‘I am unable to advise when a full recovery will occur and Mrs Herring is likely to be psychologically fragile when significant dates such as birthdays and anniversaries occur.’
Despite the advice he received in the letter, Mr Lovric asked for further medical information, the tribunal heard.
The tribunal heard Mrs Herring was ‘threatened’ decisions could be made about her future employment if she did not provide further medical information.
She told the tribunal she felt she was ‘harassed’ for further information and that it felt like ‘bullying.’
In a letter responding to her boss’s request, Mrs Herring explained she was upset there was a need to dig further into something so personal and emotional for her.
In September of that year she was fired for ‘continued absence due to ill health.’
Judge Gardiner ruled: ‘Mrs Herring was absent from work because of illness caused by the manner in which her pregnancy ended.
‘She was dismissed not just because of the length of that illness and her resulting absence, but also because she was reluctant to provide (the company) with further information from her GP or treating consultant as to the illness and its prognosis.
‘Her reluctance was because she regarded the circumstances of her illness as particularly private, given how emotionally distressing it had been to lose her baby.’
Mrs Herring was awarded £19,975 after winning a claim of pregnancy discrimination and another of unfair dismissal.