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Woman dismissed and told to 'look for another job' because she was pregnant

By Jonathan Blackburn & Sophie Halle-Richards & Hannah Mackenzie Wood

A woman has won a discrimination case after she was told to "look for another" by her boss when her pregnancy left her unable to carry out certain physical aspects of her job.

Abbey Gannapureddy was demoted from her role as assistant manager at Ice Stone Gelato, a position she had held since September 2018, and was later dismiss because she was pregnant, an employment tribunal heard.

While working at the Cheshire ice cream shop pregnant, Mrs Gannapureddy was unable to reach the front ice-cream tubs in the counter or bend down to get cakes while serving customers, Manchester Evening News reports.

She was left feeling "vulnerable" in her role, saying that while five months pregnant she "should not be lifting heavy tables" to mop the floor by herself.

The situation ignited on August 20, 2019, when Mrs Gannapureddy’s colleague, Adil Hussain, nephew of store manager Faisal Mohammed, would 'pull a face' when Mrs Gannapureddy was unable to complete tasks. Mr Hussain went on to tell her that: "maybe she shouldn’t be in work."

Mr Hussain also told Gannapureddy that if he had a pregnant wife she would 'not be allowed to work.' In a message to her boss, Mrs Gannapureddy said that Hussain had talked to her "like rubbish."

"[How] do you think that makes me feel when he says I should not be at work," she went on to write. She also told Mr Mohammed that she was "pregnant not disabled," and that health and safety and risk assessment came into the situation.

Abbie was dismissed from her job at Ice stone Gelato in Chester. (Cheshire Live)

Mr Mohammed reacted angrily, replying "what am I paying you for??" He also expressed his frustration that he was having to pay someone to do those parts of the job that she "cant or wont be able to."

He went on to write, "if you are unable to do the work that needed of you then I’m sorry but I cant help you any further you’ll need to look for another job."

In May 2020, Mrs Gannapureddy was dismissed from her job while on maternity leave. The redundancy came as the pandemic forced the shop to operate solely as a takeaway and delivery business on reduced hours.

During this time, other staff had been given the opportunity to set out their case for keeping their jobs at the ice-cream parlour, an opportunity not afforded to Mrs Gannapureddy, who had been demoted in September because business was "quiet."

When demoting Mrs Gannapureddy, Mr Mohammed also said that he could he could no longer pay additional staff to do the tasks Mrs Gannapureddy was unable to do. When she raised a grievance with the company, saying there had been a "change in attitude" since the start of her pregnancy and that she was being discriminated against, Mr Mohammed immediately removed her from the staff WhatsApp group.

Judge McDonald said: "Mrs Gannapureddy was treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy by being demoted and being subjected to discriminatory comments from colleagues. Adil's comments explicitly related to her pregnancy and we find that they were made because of her pregnancy.

"We find that Adil's remarks were acts of pregnancy discrimination. [Mr Mohammed]'s message to Mrs Gannapureddy, saying that if she was unable to do the work needed of her she would need to look for another job, was also an act of pregnancy discrimination. The reason she was 'unable to do the work needed' was her pregnancy."

Chester Desserts, the company running the Ice Stone Gelato franchise in Chester, was ordered to pay out £38,677.27 in compensation to Mrs Gannapureddy. £18,000 of that sum compensated Mrs Gannapureddy’s "injury to feelings."

Further claims of unlawful deduction of wages in relation to her demotion and unfair dismissal were also successful. Other claims made by Mrs Gannapureddy – of disability discrimination due to dyslexia and religious discrimination – were dismissed.

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