Solicitors sacked me because I was pregnant, secretary says

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The Independent Online

Mrs Bilgin, who had 16 years' experience, said there had been no complaints about her work at the Epping solicitors Foskett, Marr, Gadsby & Head. But in 2004 she was told she was to be dismissed at the end of her extended probationary period. In her claim for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination, Mrs Bilgin told the east London tribunal that she was bringing the case because companies "cannot get away with this in this day and age". She said: "I want people to know exactly what they did to me. I was devastated and it affected my pregnancy and my life for nine months."

Mrs Bilgin said that one of her immediate superiors, Nick Gadsby, a conveyancing solicitor, had not wanted to lose her before her pregnancy and had complimented her performance. "There were no problems with my performance until the day I announced my pregnancy," she said.

Mrs Bilgin started working for the firm in May 2004, was dismissed in the September and told she was not competent or experienced enough for the position. A position came up in the litigation department and she asked for a transfer because she had more experience in that area, she said. She was promised a transfer as soon as a replacement could be found.

But in the July she fell down stairs at work, injured her back and had to take a month off. Mrs Bilgin felt that during this time she was badgered to get back to work. She also said it was implied by members of staff that the fall had been her fault either because she had been running too fast, was wearing inappropriate shoes or had been drunk.

During the month off, Mrs Bilgin called environmental health to inspect the stairs which were shown to be safe, and she also informed the company she was pregnant. On her return, she was told the litigation department post had been filled.

She said: "Mr Gadsby did not want to lose me before I announced my pregnancy, I could not understand what had happened. I was told this was just how Mr Gadsby felt. I was extremely angry and I felt this was an issue with my pregnancy."

Rupert Butler, for the firm, said Graham Hobbs, the practice manager who dismissed Mrs Bilgin, had behaved responsibly in getting somebody to cover the work. He said: "He had a member of staff who had been off work for a month; you had a bad back ... He was faced with a situation that he had to cover the work. You said you would be back but nobody knew how you would be when you got back."

The hearing continues.