High profile for high-fliers and the hard done by

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The Independent Online
MATTHEW BRACE

Among the burgeoning number of successful claims for unfair dismissal during the past eight years, there have been some celebrated cases.

In a high-profile case earlier this year, Wendy Underwood, wife of the England rugby player Rory Underwood, won her fight for compensation from the RAF. She claimed that she had been forced to leave her pounds 17,000-a-year job as an air traffic controller at RAF Cottesmore in Leicestershire, when she became pregnant. She had been employed for seven years.

Mrs Underwood told the industrial tribunal that when she began maternity leave prior to the birth of her daughter in June 1990, she was not told by either the RAF or the Ministry of Defence that she could rejoin the service. Neither did they offer her any advice that might have helped her.

Mrs Underwood, who won her case in June, was one of a number of former servicewomen to challenge the MoD over the controversial policy of discharging pregnant staff.

Her case followed the European Court's ruling that Britain was contravening human rights by continuing the policy.

Another case that attracted widespread publicity was that of Gary Rewcastle, a heavy metal music fan from County Durham who won a claim last year over his dismissal for refusing to have his hair cut.

He had been employed by the Safeway supermarket chain for four years working in their store at Barnard Castle when he was told to cut his hair to collar length.

Despite the firm allowing female employees to wear pony-tails at work, when Mr Rewcastle refused to trim his hair, his employers sacked him.

Mr Rewcastle told the tribunal in Newcastle upon Tyne, that after his dismissal he was denied unemployment benefit and could not afford food.

A Safeway spokeswoman said company rules forbade "unconventional hair styles or colouring".

The tribunal found unanimously in Mr Rewcastle's favour and its chairman, Andrew Goodall, said Safeway had not shown any justification for having different rules for men and women on the length of their hair.

It ordered Safeway to pay Mr Rewcastle pounds 500 for injured feelings - a sum he said he would spend on records to add to his collection.

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