A waitress has been awarded over $25,000 in compensation after she was fired for getting pregnant.
Marika Beauchamp said the experience was so stressful she gave birth to her daughter prematurely.
“They did a lot of damage to my self-esteem… to my self-worth,” she said.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster really, which was even worse because I had these pregnancy hormones running through me.”
Beauchamp had just started working at Adzuki Bean Cafe and Restaurant in Wellington in March of 2016 when several months later she found out she was pregnant and immediately told her boss, Bing Du.
Du then told her, “I don’t usually hire pregnant people.”
By September she’d received notice from the cafe that she was being dismissed.
“First I behalf of Adzuki Bean Restaurant manage team [sic] to congrats on your pregnancy, we are so happy for you,” the letter read.
“Second, we are going to give you two weeks’ notice starts on 25th September 2016 to inform you that the last day you are working at Adzuki Bean is on 9th October 2016.”
Adzuki claim they didn’t let Beauchamp go because she was pregnant, but because she wasn’t very good at her job.
In evidence submitted to the Human Rights Disputes Tribunal Du said she’d hired Beauchamp in March because she felt sorry for her and that as her pregnancy progressed she became more tired and less useful as an employee.
Du said her grasp of English was not perfect and did not understand the full meaning of what giving an employee “two weeks notice” meant and that she’d included them in the letter of dismissal because she’d seen them used in other employment agreements.
Beauchamp said she was deliberately given hard jobs like scrubbing gum off the bottom of tables or given heavy things to lift.
She suspects this was out of spite for getting pregnant.
“She (Du) would make comments about how customers didn’t like being served by a pregnant person,” she said.
The Human Rights Disputes Tribunal didn’t uphold those claims but they did rule that she had been unfairly dismissed from Adzuki.
“It is clear from the terms of the 24 September 2016 letter itself that its purpose was to dismiss Ms Beauchamp,” the decision said.
“It is not credible that Ms Du did not understand the effect of using the words “two weeks’ notice” and that her English was the reason that she was in this situation.”
“Ms Du had lived in New Zealand for 15 years at the time the letter was written, had completed two years’ study towards a Bachelor of Commerce from Massey University and for many years has operated Adzuki Café, interacting with customers and staff in English on a daily basis.”
For Beauchamp, she’s just glad it’s all over.
“I just don’t want anyone being put through the hurt and pain I went through … It still catches up with me … I still think about it every day.”
In its decision, the tribunal said her vulnerability needed to be taken into account.
“She was young, pregnant (and for the first time), she had a precarious financial position and lacked social supports as she was new to Wellington.”
“Further, Ms Beauchamp lost her job in the middle of her pregnancy. This created enormous stress for her, including financial stress and strain on her relationship.”
They went on to say that the evidence suggested that the harm Beauchamp suffered because of her unlawful dismissal were serious and long-lasting.
“These included feelings of stress, self-doubt, moodiness, confusion and humiliation.”
As for the money, Beauchamp, a single mother of four, said it would go a long way to paying bills and maybe buying a few treats for her kids.