In the case of Lewandowski v Bradford District Apprenticeship Training Academy 1801538/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that Ms Lewandowski had been discriminated against when she was dismissed by her employer because of ’emotional volatility’ (as this emotional volatility had arisen through circumstances relating to her pregnancy).
The facts in Lewandowski v Bradford District Apprenticeship Training Academy
Ms Lewandowski commenced employment with Bradford District Apprenticeship Training Academy (“BDATA”) as an Employer Engagement Officer on 22 July 2013 on a fixed-term contract running to 30 March 2015. She was promoted to the position of Apprenticeship Manager in December 2013 and her contract was extended to 31 March 2016.
BDATA is a joint venture between Bradford College and City of Bradford Metropolitan Council, with the aim of acting as a broker between employers and apprentices. The Council provided three years of funding to BDATA, which was due to end on 31 March 2016. This was an anticipated event and planning for that eventuality took place in late 2015, as it was necessary for the organisation to plan out its options to ensure that the venture continued beyond 2016. The employee of BDATA were Kate Dallas-Wood, the Chief Executive Officer (on a salary of £40,000 per annum), Ms Lewandowski (on a salary of £33,000 per annum), and Jessica Wolfenden, Marketing Executive (on a salary of £16,000 per annum).
In November 2015 Bradford College made the decision that BDATA would be ‘spun out’ of the college as a separate entity from April 2015. A board meeting took place on 12 January 2016 and at this meeting it was decided that Ms Dallas-Wood’s contract would not be renewed beyond March 2016, but that Ms Lewandowski and Ms Wolfenden would both be offered a 12-month extension to their contracts to 31 March 2017. From November 2015 to January 2016 the management accounts and financial performance of BDATA was finalized and approved. Ms Dallas-Wood subsequently informed Ms Wolfenden and Ms Lewandowski of what had been decided and that they would be offered a 12-month extension.
In late January 2016 Ms Lewandowski disclosed her pregnancy to her friends at work, friends which included Ms Wolfenden. She became keen to have her contract extension finalized and chased Ms Dallas-Wood for a copy of the contract. She also approached Ms Dallas-Wood on 18 February 2016 to find out what was happening with her contract, and explained that she was pregnant (she said this in confidence and explained that she was telling Ms Dallas-Wood so that she would understand why she was pressing for the written extension).
On 22 February 2016 there was a further board meeting, at which the Tribunal found that Ms Dallas-Wood had disclosed Ms Lewandowski’s pregnancy to them and that it was discussed that there was a need to extract another salary because the business could not afford it.
After the board meeting on 22 February 2016 Ms Lewandowski was called to a meeting with Ms Dallas-Wood and other board members. Ms Lewandowski was told that despite her being offered a contract extension to 31 March 2017 the position had now changed and the business could not afford her salary. She was told that her contract would terminate on 31 March 2016.
Ms Lewandowski suffered a miscarriage in March 2016 and submitted a grievance in June 2016 complaining of unfair treatment and pregnancy discrimination. She subsequently made claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, automatic unfair dismissal, and pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Lewandowski v Bradford District Apprenticeship Training Academy
The Employment Tribunal upheld Mrs Deol’s claims for pregnancy discrimination (section 18 Equality Act 2010), unfair dismissal, and automatic unfair dismissal (section 99 Employment Rights Act 1996).
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination
The Tribunal found that there was sufficient facts for the Tribunal to come to a conclusion that the reason for Ms Lewandowski’s dismissal was her pregnancy: an analysis of the viability of the business had been undertaken, she had been offered a new contract on the basis of that analysis, that after the business was made aware of her pregnancy that contract offer was withdrawn, and that the business had failed to offer an adequate explanation as to why the decision was made to terminate Ms Lewandowski’s contract. The Tribunal also held that it did not find BDATA’s witnesses credible due to conflicts between their witness evidence and the documentary evidence.
The Tribunal found that Ms Lewandowski’s dismissal was both substantively and procedurally unfair: there was no warning, no consultation, no selection process followed, no selection procedure, and no appeal.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Lewandowski:
- £8,454.08 in respect of financial losses between 31 March 2016 and 31 March 2017, together with interest of £676.33
- £15,000 in respect of injury to feelings, together with six months’ interest of £600
- £300 in respect of loss of statutory rights
- Reimbursement of Tribunal fees (£435)
Our solicitors’ view on Lewandowski v Bradford District Apprenticeship Training Academy
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must not dismiss employees because they are pregnant or because they have taken (or are taking or intend to take) a period of maternity leave) – such treatment would not only constitute pregnancy discrimination but also automatically unfair dismissal.”
The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here.