A former Pizza Express female employee in Lincoln is taking action after alleging that the firm squeezed her out of a job because she got pregnant, a tribunal has heard.
Judge John McMillan was told at the opening of a three-day employment tribunal held at Lincoln Magistrates that claimant Jennifer Sammut (28) has taken action based on maternity discrimination.
Miss Sammut was a chef at Pizza Express and had hoped to return after the birth of her two-year-old daughter Bella in 2012.
— Update at 5pm on April 14
The woman claims her employer discriminated against her because she was pregnant, and says she felt bullied before her maternity leave started, the tribunal was told.
Jennifer Sammut said she was given a dressing down for being late one morning at Pizza Express, even though she was three minutes early.
“I was reprimanded, but I was not late,” she said. “I wasn’t wrong, but I felt I needed to explain that I would have been there earlier If I hadn’t had to stop to be sick. I was told morning sickness was not an excuse.”
The tribunal heard that Miss Sammut felt exhausted during the early stages of her pregnancy. It was put to her that her exhaustion was noticeable and her employer suggested she be moved from her job as chef in the kitchen to waitressing.
“That is not what I was told,” she said. “I was told I was being demoted to waiting staff. I felt bullied into taking that demotion. Nothing was mentioned about my exhaustion. As my pregnancy progressed, it was felt that my belly was going to get bigger, and there was limited space in the kitchen.”
Miss Sammut wanted flexible hours to suit her child care arrangements when she was due to return to work in December 2012, but none could be found to suit, the tribunal was told.
Miss Sammut mentioned that a chef brought in to cover her maternity leave was given a permament contract, and she felt she would not be welcome back.
It was put to her that the new chef’s contract was changed because he was replacing hours lost by another colleague who had taken time off sick with stress, and there was nothing sinister in the appointment, the tribunal was told.
Pizza Express representative Ian Hartley said it was a question of balance. The company could not give her the 16 flexible hours across the day she wanted, but Miss Sammut said she had been willing to compromise or take other jobs such as cleaning, but was rejected. This could only be possible if she gained hours at the expense of other staff losing hours.
The hearing is set to last for two more days.