A receptionist fired by a law firm because she was having a difficult pregnancy and taking time off work has been awarded compensation of £23,500 by an employment tribunal.
The major share of it, £14,000, was for injury to feelings, plus £1,500 in aggravated damages, with the tribunal deprecating the “arrogant” conduct of the partner who dismissed Kiran Nasreen, which it said “rubbed salt into the wounds” of her dismissal.
We reported in February that she was summarily dismissed by Dr Akbar Ali Malik a month after her last day in the office, despite medical evidence showing she was ill, which the tribunal said was unfair by reason of pregnancy.
The employment tribunal said Dr Malik and Ms Nasreen, who had been a receptionist at Malik Law Chambers for more than three years and reported directly to him, had previously had a good relationship.
“We infer from all the evidence that his attitude to her changed when he realised that she was having a difficult pregnancy, which was giving rise to a protracted period of sickness absence and (inevitably) a period of maternity leave.
“This was inconvenient to the firm and Dr Malik decided to dispense with her services in a summary fashion.”
The tribunal’s remedy ruling has now been published. Employment Judge Massarella said: “She was entitled to believe that her pregnancy would make no difference to that relationship and was deeply shocked when she learnt through her husband that she had been summarily dismissed.
“We accept her evidence that this caused her very considerable distress. That distress was evidenced by the fact that she continued to try and contact Dr Malik with a view to resolving matters.
“We accept that the prospect of being out of work caused her much stress. It also caused her worry about what the impact would be on her, her family and her unborn child. She was very worried indeed about how the family would make ends meet.”
Her baby was born two months premature and Ms Nasreen subsequently had a miscarriage with her next child, but the judge said there was no medical evidence to confirm a causal link with the dismissal.
An award of £14,000 for injury to feelings was “appropriate in the circumstances”, but the tribunal also found aggravating factors “in the manner in which the discriminatory act was carried out”.
Judge Massarella explained: “Dr Malik behaved in the most high-handed fashion, refusing to communicate with the claimant, and dealing with her husband in a hostile and intimidating fashion, saying words to the effect of: ‘whatever you can do, you can do. I am a solicitor myself. I know everything – you can go to the High Court, Supreme Court and I know everything’.
“We have no doubt whatsoever that this arrogant and dismissive conduct exacerbated the claimant’s hurt feelings and made her feel personally rejected and humiliated. We accept her evidence that the humiliation still plays on her mind to this day…
“The claimant was already very upset indeed; this conduct undoubtedly rubbed salt in her wounds.”
Dr Malik told the tribunal that he was appealing the liability decision.
Malik Law Chambers had offices in both East and West London, and also Birmingham. It was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in April 2018, which said there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of both Dr Malik and registered foreign lawyer Imtiaz Ali. Ms Nasreen worked in the East London office.