Tribunal awards former White Lake Cheese employee £20k for pregnancy discrimination

White Lake Cheese tribunalA former office worker, who was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on pregnancy grounds by White Lake Cheese, has been awarded £19,700 by an employment tribunal.

Storm Botha started working at White Lake Cheese as a cheese-making assistant in September 2020. After two months, she occasionally worked in the office doing marketing work and was told by her boss Roger Longman she could stay there. She privately told office manager Sandra Hamilton in September 2021 that she was five weeks pregnant, but Hamilton texted a colleague about it 90 minutes later.

After time off due to “wave after wave of panic attacks that kept [her] from being able to sleep”, Botha returned to work. Longman invited her to a meeting and did not tell her what it was about. After criticising her social media marketing work, he moved her to a lower-paid role in the wrapping and affinage department which involves heavy lifting, but no risk assessments had been carried out for her.

Botha explained that she could not do affinage as she was pregnant, and Longman replied that he knew and that she would be working in wrapping, despite later insisting that he did not know before the meeting.

Botha emailed her boss to raise a formal grievance and that she felt she had been discriminated against due to her pregnancy. She was signed off sick due to stress, suffered a miscarriage in November 2021 and was dismissed a month later.

Employment Judge Martha Street said: “We are satisfied that Longman knew of Botha’s pregnancy before the meeting. [It] was not a relaxed, informal meeting presenting issues over the future of Storm’s role. It was a meeting in which criticisms were made of her work and it led to the announcement of a decision already made to move her to a different, lower-paid role, on a short-term basis.

“Revisiting the history, we find a pregnancy-related decision to demote Botha, followed by the decision to make that longer-term, prompted both by the pregnancy and the grievance, an unwelcome and angry challenge to Longman’s decision-making.”

A remedy judgment published last week (in May) ordered White Lake Cheese to pay Botha £19,700 comprising a discrimination award of £4,920 in financial losses, £9,000 injury to feelings, £3,480 for breaches of the Acas code, and £1,870 in interest; and a basic award for unfair dismissal of £440.

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White Lake Cheese was contacted for comment prior to this article’s original publication.

This article was originally published on 24 October 2023 and updated on 20 May 2024 following the publication of the remedy judgment.