Woman wins pregnancy discrimination case

Issue 

Woman wins pregnancy discrimination case

By Robyn Marshall

In 1997, Colette Johnson, then 28 years old, was hired by the Ipswich office of Gloria Marshall Australia, the infamous weight-loss firm. Three weeks later she found out she was pregnant.

Doing the right thing, she told her new employers that she was pregnant. Gloria Marshall immediately sacked her, claiming poor performance.

Last week, however, Johnson won the biggest pay-out yet in a pregnancy discrimination case in Queensland — $41,000. $20,000 is for costs and $21,000 for pain and suffering, hurt and distress, unfair dismissal and also the embarrassment and insult caused by the discrimination. Gloria Marshall, apparently, couldn't distinguish between having a large waistline and being pregnant.

Gloria Marshall could be prosecuted for fabricating false evidence and deliberately obstructing Johnson's lawyers, and for contempt of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. Among the evidence the company presented to support its case was a so-called performance evaluation document.

Queensland anti-discrimination commissioner Karen Walters said the case was ground-breaking, highlighting the need for large businesses to take non-discriminatory workplace practices seriously. Obviously a pregnant employee doesn't fit Gloria Marshall's corporate image.

Johnson is delighted with the result, saying, "A woman being pregnant doesn't mean that she can't do her job".