A gelato shop worker whose pregnancy left her unable to reach forward to scoop up ice cream has be awarded almost £ 40,000 after her boss asked ‘What am I paying you for?’
Assistant manager Abbey Gannapureddy had worked for Icestone Gelato Café in Chester, Cheshire, since September 2018.
But after falling pregnant she struggled with tasks like lifting tables to mop the floor or bending down to get cakes for customers, an employment tribunal heard.
When she was six months pregnant a male colleague saw her struggling with jobs and told her that if he had a pregnant wife he would ‘not allow her to work’.
But when she complained about his comments, shop owner Faisal Mohammed told her that if she was unable to do the work needed from her, she would ‘need to look for another job’.
After going on maternity leave in late 2019, Mrs Gannapureddy was made redundant during the Covid pandemic the following year.
Now a tribunal has ruled she was discriminated against by bosses and unfairly sacked after not being offered an alternative role. She has now been awarded £ 38,677.27 in compensation.
Assistant manager Abbey Gannapureddy had worked for Icestone Gelato Café in Chester, Cheshire, since September 2018. But after falling pregnant she struggled with tasks like lifting tables to mop the floor or bending down to get cakes for customers, an employment tribunal heard
The Manchester tribunal heard Mrs Gannapureddy began working at the gelato cafe as a ‘Store Assistant Gelatist’ in September 2018.
She was promoted to assistant manager of the store just four months after joining and after the resignation of a colleague, Mrs Gannapureddy acted as the ‘de facto manager’ of the store.
In April 2019 Mrs Gannapureddy fell pregnant, and told company director Mr Mohammed her due date was in November that year.
He agreed to reduce her hours and removed the requirement for her to work late or do double shifts during her pregnancy.
The tribunal heard that though her job involved ‘relevant risks’ such as ‘lifting boxes’ and ‘bending and reaching to scoop’ ice cream – no pregnancy risk assessment was carried out.
At five months pregnant Mrs Gannapureddy messaged Mr Mohammed to tell him she ‘should not be lifting heavy tables’ to mop the floor by herself.
It was agreed she would move her start time from 10.30am to midday, so the mopping had already been done by the time she got to work.
The panel heard as she grew more heavily pregnant Mrs Gannapureddy felt ‘vulnerable’ in her role.
The tribunal heard she found it increasingly difficult to carry out some tasks required in the shop, and that by mid-August she ‘could not reach the front scoops for scooping’ or ‘get to the cakes to serve them to customers’.
The tribunal heard Adil Hussain, a nephew of one of the franchises’ owners, would ‘pull a face’ when he saw her struggling to carry out these tasks.
He told her, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be in work’, and said if he had a pregnant wife, he would ‘not allow her to work’.
Mrs Gannapureddy messaged Mr Mohammed to complain about the comments, to which he reacted ‘angrily’, telling her he ‘could not make any more changes’ due to her pregnancy.
The tribunal heard he also fumed he was having to pay someone else to do parts of her job she ‘can’t or won’t be able to do’, and asked, ‘What am I paying you for?’.
He told her that if she was unable to do the work needed from her, she would ‘need to look for another job’.
In September, Mr Mohammed told Mrs Gannapureddy she was being demoted to a ‘regular team member’ as business was ‘quiet’ and he could no longer pay additional staff to do the tasks she was unable to do.
Mrs Gannapureddy 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.
The tribunal heard Mr Mohammed’s immediate response was to remove her from the staff WhatsApp group.
Mrs Gannapureddy left on maternity leave in early November 2019 and gave birth to a baby boy at the end of the month.
She was made redundant in May 2020 after the pandemic forced the shop to operate solely as a takeaway and delivery business on reduced hours.
Though other staff had been given the opportunity to discuss why they shouldn’t be made redundant, Mrs Gannapureddy had been unable to do so within her allotted time slots.
Employment Judge Rhodri McDonald ruled Mrs Gannapureddy had been treated unfavorably due to her pregnancy – which had led to her demotion, redundancy and the hurtful comments from her colleagues.
Judge McDonald said: ‘Mrs Gannapureddy was treated unfavorably because of her pregnancy by being demoted and being subjected to discriminatory comments from colleagues.
A tribunal in Manchester (pictured: Library image) has ruled she was discriminated against by bosses and unfairly sacked after not being offered an alternative role. She has now been awarded £ 38,677.27 in compensation
‘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.
‘Although it does not explicitly refer to Mrs Gannapureddy’s pregnancy we find her pregnancy was an effective cause of the comment.
‘The reason she was’ unable to do the work needed ‘was her pregnancy.’
Chester Desserts – the company which ran the franchise – was ordered to pay her £ 38,677.27 in compensation – £ 18,000 of which for injury to feelings in relation to her pregnancy discrimination and victimization claims.
Further claims of unfair dismissal, unlawful deduction of wages in relation to her demotion were also successful.
However, Mrs Gannapureddy’s other claims of disability discrimination due to dyslexia and religious discrimination were dismissed.