Beauty therapist sacked for being pregnant

By Hayden Donnell

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A beauty therapist who was sacked after being told her pregnancy would be "disgusting and repulsive" to clients has been awarded thousands of dollars in compensation for unfair dismissal.

The Employment Relations Authority has ruled Veronica Kloeten suffered hurt, humiliation and distress when her aunt Janita Wright unjustifiably sacked her from Combined Tanning Supplies Ltd in Mt Wellington, Auckland last year.

It ordered the spray tanning specialist to pay Ms Kloeten six months of lost wages, maternity leave and $3000 compensation.

In evidence to the authority, Ms Kloeten said she had a good working relationship with Ms Wright before she announced her pregnancy at a family dinner last June.

Though Ms Wright first reacted "indifferently" to the news, she confronted Ms Kloeten about her plans at work the next day.

When she explained her intention to take maternity leave, Ms Wright became agitated and upset.

Ms Wright insisted salon clients would find being served by a pregnant woman "disgusting and repulsive" and claimed she could not sustain the costs of maternity leave, Ms Kloeten's evidence to the ERA stated.

A Facebook status update posted by Ms Wright a day later said: "A catastrophic event ... is watching everything you've worked for, your entire networth, the thing that defines you as who you are and the hopes and dreams you had ... all gone."

That was followed by a confrontation in which an enraged Ms Wright locked the store and confronted Ms Kloeten.

Frightened, Ms Kloeten gathered her possessions in her arms and pushed past Ms Wright on her way out of the store, moving aside a small trellis gate with her foot on the way.

That was corroborated by a nearby mechanic who saw Ms Kloeten crying as she left the business, as Ms Wright ordered her to get out.

Ms Kloeten was later served a letter terminating her employment for serious misconduct.

It claimed she had assaulted and verbally abused Ms Wright during their final confrontation.

The ERA rejected those reasons, stating Ms Kloeten was unjustifiably disadvantaged because of her pregnancy.

It said Ms Wright had not complied with the basic tenets of natural justice and had inflicted unjustified humiliation and distress during the dismissal.

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