Mom fired for refusing to work weekends wins landmark case
A mother of three who was fired for refusing to work on weekends has won a “historic” labor court against her employers.
Community nurse Gemma Dobson, 40, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, won her appeal at the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London, with the judge citing the mothers’ ‘child custody disparity’ weighing in her favor.
Dobson had worked fixed days because of his family responsibilities to his children, two of whom are disabled.
However, following a review in 2016, the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation trust sought to introduce more flexible working and require community nurses to work certain weekends.
Dobson was unable to work on weekends due to her childcare commitments and was subsequently fired from her job.
She then took her former employers to a labor court alleging unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination, but without success.
However, his appeal was upheld by the chairman of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), Judge Choudhury in London.
Lawyers for Slater and Gordon acting on Dobson’s behalf argued that she was only compared to members of her small team, rather than community nurses throughout the trust, with respect to the requirement of flexible work.
This was confirmed by the EAT, which also said that women bear the greater burden of childcare responsibilities than men and that it can limit their ability to work certain hours.
Justice Choudhury called this a “child custody disparity” and ruled that it is an issue that labor courts “must consider where appropriate”.
Dobson was supported in her case by the charity Working Families, which promotes a healthy work-life balance.
After the successful appeal, Dobson said, âI am totally delighted with the outcome of the appeal after my utter disbelief in the outcome of the original court.
âI have continued to seek justice for over four years now. “
The judgment clarified the law on identifying the correct pool for comparison, how the burden of proof works and how a particular disadvantage can be established by claimants in such cases, Dobson’s lawyers said.
Employment lawyer Doreen Reeves, of Slater and Gordon, said: âIt is established in law that there is a ‘disparity in child custody’ as women are more likely to carve the lion’s share in child care.
âWorking mothers should not be burdened with proving this assumption over and over again when they file a complaint in the labor court.
“This important landmark decision gives a clear warning, working mothers with family responsibilities should not be penalized if they are not able to work flexibly to meet the needs of the business or the demands of a department. . “
The case will now return to an employment tribunal to re-examine the issues of indirect discrimination and unfair dismissal.
A spokesperson for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘It is important to note that the Labor Appeal Tribunal did not find in its judgment that Ms Dobson had been discriminated against or unfairly dismissed by the trust, which is why the case will return to the original labor court for further consideration.
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