Employer fined thousands for pregnancy discrimination

by Cameron Edmond12 Nov 2013

Discount retail store operator Felix Corporation has been fined $40,920 for discrimination against a pregnant employee. Feiyue Hu and Juan Ping Hu, the owner-managers of a GV Bargain Store in Shepparton where the discrimination took place, have been fined further amounts of $7,656 and $5,016 respectively, with the organisation paying $7,197 to the employee.

The employee was a shop assistant who – in December 2010 at the age of 22 – told her employer she was pregnant. She was then directed to take two weeks of unpaid leave, which she refused. This resulted in her rostered hours being cut from the average of 26 to less than 10 in a week. When she asked for more hours, she was told to look for another job.

Hu told the employee that traditionally women in China do not work when they are pregnant, and she didn’t want her working in the store, The Fair Work Ombudsman revealed.

After obtaining requested medical certificates that stated she was suitable to work, she was offered some additional hours. Ultimately, however, she resigned in April of 2011 in what was essentially ‘constructive dismissal’. This breached the discrimination provisions of workplace law.

“It is the responsibility of employers to make sure they are aware of their obligations under workplace laws and that they treat workers fairly,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said. “We want to increase awareness that discriminating against pregnant women is a serious breach of workplace laws and won’t be tolerated.”

These are the highest penalties secured by the Fair Work Ombudsman for legal action relating to discrimination and were imposed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne.

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