Pregnancy discrimination against contract worker

Cases

Pregnancy discrimination against contract worker

A contract worker who was discriminated against on the grounds of her pregnancy has been awarded $4,000 by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

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A contract worker who was discriminated against on the grounds of her pregnancy has been awarded $4,000 by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

Background

The complainant had been working for the employer (a registered club) as a promoter. The Club had a contract with the complainant’s employer (a promotions agency). The complainant is no longer employed with that particular agency (Garven v Collegians Rugby League Football Club Ltd [1998] HREOCA 32 (7 October 1998)).

During the complainant’s time at the Club, she commenced a consensual sexual relationship with the Club’s Operations Manager (Mr R). The complainant became pregnant as a result of this relationship. It was alleged that she informed Mr R that she was pregnant with his child and that he threatened her with termination of employment if she did not terminate the pregnancy.

Commission’s findings

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that the complainant had been discriminated against on the ground of pregnancy in contravention of s7and s16of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

Section 16of the Actstates that it is unlawful to discriminate against a contract worker on the ground of the contract worker’s sex, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy by denying the contract worker access, or limiting the contract worker’s access, to any benefit associated with the work in respect of which the contract with the employer is made.

The Commission found that Mr R’s direction to the complainant prevented her from continuing to work. Further, as Mr R was acting on "behalf of the Club when he gave this instruction, the Club discriminated against [the complainant] on the ground of her pregnancy in her role as a contract worker with the Club."

Further, the Commission held that although the Club had a strong policy of support for pregnant employees, this policy was not extended to contract workers. Contract employees were not provided with copies of the Club’s policy nor were they included in the employees’ networks so were unable to find out about such things by word of mouth.

Damages

The Commission did not award any damages for economic loss as the complainant left her employer (the promotions agency) at the same time Mr R indicated she could no longer continue working at the Club.

As to damages for non-economic loss, the Commission held:

"Mr R’s actions, in effectively giving [the complainant] a choice between her job and an abortion, were selfish and heartless in the extreme. He clearly placed more importance on the removal of embarrassment and possible damage to his own career than on the right of [the complainant] to choose whether or not to have the child of which he was the father. To place [the complainant] in such a dilemma was despicable. The fact of losing her job, combined with the worries of early pregnancy, clearly had a major impact on her. This is supported by the medical evidence in the Referral Report.

"Balanced against this, the Club in no way sanctioned either Mr R’s action or the callousness of it. Also, [the complainant] was in the process of re-structuring her employment, and even if Mr R had not acted as he did, she probably would not have continued to work at the Club. Despite her keenness to stay as a promoter, [the Club’s] evidence of a wish to continue to receive promoters through [the promotions agency] is persuasive. The Club must, however, be responsible for the actions of its employees, and it would be inappropriate to give these contrary factors too much weight."

The Commission found that the Club discriminated against the complainant on the ground of her pregnancy and directed the Club to pay her $4,000 damages.

 
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