A high flying City lawyer has been ordered to pay his nanny more than £18,000 after sacking her for getting pregnant.
Frenchman Sylvain Dhennin, a partner at international corporate lawyers Hogan Lovells paid Saesi (corr) Muslipah (corr) a week’s notice and handed her a letter dismissing her.
Jobless and pregnant, she could not get any work at a nanny agency and was forced to sign on, then claim basic maternity allowance after having her baby.
Her sacking came on September 22 last year, just four days after she told Mr Dhennin’s wife Orla O’Sullivan that she was pregnant.
However although Mr Dhennin conceded at the beginning of the hearing that his wife had told him of the pregnancy, in his prepared statement he said Ms Muslipah never told him she was expecting.
He said: “I was never informed by Ms Muslipah during her employment that she was pregnant, even though she saw me almost every morning before she went to work.”
The tribunal accused him of ‘obscuring the facts’ and using ‘deliberate, careful and sophisticated’ language.
He said she was made redundant because his two boys Patrick and Philip were enrolled at nursery in Chelsea.
Mr Dhennin, who did law degrees in Paris and Oxford University, and also speaks German, said the issue of redundancy had been raised with Ms Muslipah, but she claimed her dismissal was the first she had heard of it.
The London Employment Tribunal did not believe him, upholding her claims for direct pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Employment Judge Graeme Hodgson said: “We find that at no time prior to 22 September 2017 was it ever suggested to the claimant that her role was redundant or that the nursery arrangements for Patrick and Philip would result in the claimant not being needed, or losing her job.
“She was pregnant, and she was concerned how she would manage financially. She was generally upset, and she missed the children.
“She formed the view that the reason for her dismissal was pregnancy.
“She found it upsetting. The tribunal observed the claimant appeared to be distressed and upset during the hearing.
“In particular, the respondent’s contention that there had been some form of discussion about redundancy appeared to cause upset.”
He said it is clear the claimant was pregnant – and Mr Dhennin knew it.
The Judge said: “At the beginning of the hearing, Mr Dhennin stated, for the first time, that his wife had been informed of the pregnancy on 18 September and that
she told him.”
He added : “The respondent is a lawyer. He has been in this country for 14 years. He qualified as a lawyer in New York, where he studied in English.
“He has no difficulty constructing sentences which obscure the fact of his knowledge of the pregnancy, by selectively focusing on the claimant’s failure to inform him
“We have no doubt that his use of language is deliberate, careful, and sophisticated.
“Mr Dhennin offered no explanation for why he volunteered at the beginning of the hearing that in fact he did know of the claimant’s pregnancy.
“We are not satisfied that the claimant would have been made redundant at the same time had it not been for the fact she told the respondent of her pregnancy.
“Pregnancy was a material factor in that decision.”
The tribunal was told that she carried out housework as well as caring for the children.
Just the week before her sacking, Mrs O’Sullivan had said she would give Ms Muslipah a garden key, so she could invite more of Philip’s friends for play dates.
The tribunal was also told there were established arrangements, whereby they would each look after either Philip, 15months old or the other boy, Patrick.
There was also discussion about the claimant’s continuing role as a housekeeper when the couple moved into a new house.
She worked for them from 30 January to 22 September last year and the tribunal heard she enjoyed a happy working relationship with the respondent and his wife at their home in west London.
She cared for both children and also provided housekeeping services.
When she first suspected she may be pregnant she was concerned she may have miscarried.
So she attended hospital on 29 August 2017. A scan revealed she was about eight weeks pregnant.
On 18 September 2017, she told Mrs O’Sullivan of her pregnancy. She confirmed the following Monday she would have a scan. Mrs O’Sullivan neither reacted nor made any comment.
On 22 September 2018, and without any warning, approximately an hour before she was due to finish for the day, Mr Dhennin told her that he and his wife no longer needed her because both children were going to nursery full-time.
He handed her the letter of termination which confirmed that she was dismissed. She finished work that day.
Afterwards she approached an agency, telling them she was pregnant. She was unable to secure another role.
Her boy was born early on 26 March this year, and she is now on maternity allowance. She took home £495 per week.
Ms Muslipah, who lives in Hackney, was awarded a total of £18,366.62 of which £6,500 was damages and the rest compensation and interest.