Pregnant charity worker told by manager to have an abortion – even though she had already had a still born child
A pregnant charity worker was told by her manager to have an abortion – despite already having had a still born child.
Teri Cumlin – a former team leader with Engage Fundraising – was told by her manager Mark Robertson “if you want a career then I’d advise you to terminate your baby”.
He also asked the 22-year-old if she “wished to be the kind of person who had different children to different fathers” before eventually dismissing her just two months before she gave birth.
Teri, from Glasgow, took Engage to an employment tribunal and has now been awarded more than £12,000 for unfair dismissal and sex and pregnancy discrimination.
Teri told the tribunal in Glasgow that: “He said to me ‘do you want to be that girl from Maryhill with babies to different dads?’ and then it was ‘ if you want a career than I’d advise you to terminate your baby’.
“I said ‘I’m not going to have a termination’.
“I explained that I had had a still born previously and there was no way I was having an abortion.
“I was crying in the street and he told me I was making myself cry.
“He said it was all my fault.”
The tribunal – which was held in May, but whose judgement wasn’t released until last week – heard that the 22-year-old told Mr Robertson she was pregnant at the end of July last year.
Teri said: “He started shouting in my face, telling me how stupid I was and that they wouldn’t be able to keep me on.
“It was awful.
“He drove me and another worker home at the end of our shift and kept saying ‘that’s Teri’s life down the pan, Teri’s life is over now’.”
She added that on another occasion she took ill and asked to stand in the shade because it was a hot day and Mr Robertson refused, before further berating her about her pregnancy.
Mr Robertson also criticised the mother-of-two for taking too many toilet breaks and asked her not to drink so much.
He also regularly sent her home from work unpaid saying she was unfit to work, and told her to attend for shifts later than her colleagues so he could criticise her for being late in front of them.
Teri – who was also demoted from her post as team leader due to her pregnancy – eventually complained to head office about the manager’s conduct but no steps were taken to address it.
In December last year she was suspended amid claims of misconduct and was told not to contact anyone from Engage while they investigated.
When she attended at the office a week later, she was dismissed.
Teri suffered high blood pressure during her pregnancy and went on to have an emergency caesarean section one month early in February this year due to complications.
Her son was in intensive care for a week after his birth.
She said: “It was awful, it was just a horrible time in my life.
“And I blame it all on [Mr Robertson].
“Wouldn’t have been so stressed and so worried if it wasn’t for him.
“When my baby was in intensive care I kept thinking about what he had said to me.
“I was so angry. I just kept thinking ‘my poor wee baby’s not well’.
“I kept thinking ‘how could he have told me to have a termination?’.
“Thomas is doing really well now, but it took me while to bond with him.
“I found it really hard at the start, my mood was so low, and I didn’t want to do anything.
“I was worrying about money, I was worrying about my house, instead of just focusing on my baby.”
Employment judge Robert Gall said he “regarded the dismissal as an act of discrimination”.
After the judgement, Teri, who also has a four-year-old girl called Tierney, said: “I was left with nothing.
“I had no money, I was worrying about losing my house.
“It was a really horrible time in my life.
“I had a wee girl and a baby on the way and he knew that and yet he still did what he did.
“I’m pleased with the judgment, but the whole thing has just been so stressful.”
Engage, which raises money on the street on behalf of a number of charities, did not defend the action.
On their website they boast that: “All of our staff receives thorough training and support that continues throughout their career at Engage.
“Our commitment to the training and development of our staff at every level is what sets us apart from other companies and gives us retention levels we can be very proud of.”
Lawyer Agnes Maxwell-Ferguson, of EMC Solicitors, who represented Teri, said it was “staggering” that a charitable organisation had demonstrated such an “old fashioned Victorian attitude”.
She added: “We hope this case highlights to employers this attitude towards pregnant workers cannot be tolerated in the current workplace.”
A spokesman for Engage said they were unaware of the tribunal and are now looking to appeal against the decision.