A pregnant nursery worker has won almost £40,000 after her boss repeatedly declined to let her attend hospital appointments and fired her over a series of trumped-up allegations.
Simone Cousins, 29, was accused of falsifying wages by Maria Noble at Dovecote Nursery, Northampton, without a shred of evidence in what a judge said was an oppressive and high handed campaign against her.
The employment tribunal, held virtually in Norwich, Norfolk, ruled Simone Cousins was made redundant because she was pregnant and awarded her £39,535 in damages for discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal.
Maria Noble unreasonably denied Simone Cousins request for days off for hospital appointments and forced her to change them to accommodate the nursery’s schedule.
A tribunal heard that Simone Cousins was pressured into working her normal hours despite suffering exhaustion and nausea and was summoned out of the blue to a disciplinary hearing on baseless allegations.
In one case Maria Noble even emailed Simone Cousins 90 questions at 5 pm and demanded a written explanation for them by 10 am the next morning.
The employment tribunal heard Simone Cousins, who worked at the nursery for two years, had a good rapport with Maria Noble before she was pregnant, but when pregnant, Simone Cousins asked for time off for five appointments. One was given, but others were refused or Maria Noble forced her to reschedule them up to three times, causing problems.
The tribunal found that no attempt was made by Maria Noble to provide cover, and without warning, Simone Cousins was called to a formal meeting where she was accused of claiming wages she didn’t work though no proof was offered.
She later got a letter referring to large differences which claimed there was a difference of 58.5 hours.
Weeks later, out of the blue, she was summoned to another meeting in which she was told she could be dismissed for gross misconduct, this time it was alleged that she claimed 95 hours she didn’t work.
The hours were subtracted from her salary and Simone Cousins answered 90 questions despite struggling to sit at a computer for a prolonged time.
The 95 hours were repaid but, bizarrely, she was fired for gross misconduct because she falsified those hours and failed to use the sign-in book.
A tribunal ruled that Maria Noble failed to listen to Simone Cousins answers and could have seen that she wasn’t lying about the hours worked if she bothered to review the work log.
Judge Robin Postle said Maria Noble had made entirely baseless allegations, and that Maria Noble simply didn’t look at the evidence that was staring her in the face.
The employment judge said the allegations were patently false and that Simone Cousins was being questioned about stuff that could quickly have been answered by the nursery from their records.
Judge Postle added that Maria Noble had maintained Simone Cousins was a trustworthy and honest worker, one of the best, and meticulous with her paperwork.
He said that however, following the announcement of Simone Cousins pregnancy she was accused of falsifying earnings without any proof to substantiate this claim and was then deducted 95 hours without notification or reason.
Then, when she complained about it, the hours and money were consequently returned without any reason, and that this was harsh and high handed.
The judge continued that the tribunal did acknowledge that Simone Cousins was failing to sign in on occasions but this was mostly following her pregnancy when she forgot or was distracted by parents when entering the building.
And he said that other workers had failed to do so and yet no disciplinary penalties had been imposed.