U.K. woman fired for considering adoption

Tribunal finds employer guilty of wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination
|Canadian Employment Law Today

An employee in the United Kingdom has been awarded a compensation award by an employment tribunal for being fired because she planned to adopt a child.

Anna Coulombeau, 24, worked for Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Nottingham, England. She took vacation time to attend pre-adoption courses and when she returned to work, she was accused of dishonesty and incompetence. After two disciplinary hearings, Coulombeau was fired for gross misconduct in November 2005.

Coulombeau claimed she was forced out because of her adoption plans and was a victim of sex discrimination. She argued she had previously received “glowing appraisals” from her managers at Enterprise and the errors for which she had been fired were ones for which male workers had only been reprimanded. She added she had been told a manager had said “she’ll be no bloody use to me then” when informed of her adoption plans.

The tribunal found Enterprise discriminated against Coulombeau in disciplining her because she was a woman. It also found the company expected her to take leave for her planned adoption and arranged to get rid of her so it wouldn’t have to deal with accommodating her.

“Her manager saw her as likely to need time off for adoption purposes, including ultimately adoption leave, because she is a woman,” the tribunal said. “It is why he orchestrated her dismissal.”

Coulombeau plans to donate her undisclosed award, after legal costs, to adoption charities.

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