Eleanor Marie Coleman, a former Hong Kong employee of a major Swiss private bank took the company to court for more than HK$1.37 million (US$175,650) as she claimed that she was sacked during her sick leave following a miscarriage.
Coleman accused her former supervisor at the Hong Kong branch of Bank J. Safra Sarasin of making distressing comments about her pregnancy and family life.
She also claimed that she was given a termination letter and asked to sign her resignation while she was on sick leave certified by a hospital, or she would not get another job or Monetary Authority licence.
According to her lawyers, such acts were unlawful under Hong Kong’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance and Disability Discrimination Ordinance.
Coleman is seeking HK$1.12 million in lost income plus HK$250,000 as compensation for the injury to her feelings and another unspecified sum for punitive or exemplary damages.
She is also seeking an apology from the bank, on top of a court order for the company to implement anti-discrimination awareness training for all senior staff and directors.
According to the writ, Coleman joined the bank as a director/vice-president on July 11, 2016 and became pregnant the following February.
She was reluctant to inform anyone outside her immediate family regarding her pregnancy, but felt obliged to inform her supervisor, Feorze Sukh, when he remarked she was not herself and noticed she was pale and quieter.
Sukh advised Coleman to keep her pregnancy to herself until after she passed her probation, as her other teammate nicknamed KW is also pregnant and would go on maternity leave soon. He said “having two pregnant members in a small team of eight would look bad on the team as a whole.”
But Coleman learned she had miscarried during her eight-week scan on March 31.
She was admitted to the hospital on April 3 following her excessive bleeding due to medication that helped trigger contractions to expel her miscarried fetus. She was later discharged with instructions to stay at home for the rest of the week.
Sukh, however, found her time off unacceptable.
He said she would have to toughen up and face her work responsibilities if she was going to be a good mother. He was also said to have reminded her that she was her family’s main breadwinner who would “have to come back to work because [her husband] doesn’t earn enough”.
Due to her fear towards Sukh’s reaction, Coleman returned to work on April 26 despite having underwent a dilation and curettage operation on April 24.
Coleman was fired on April 28.
Source: South China Morning Post