A Melbourne retail company has been found guilty for discriminating against a pregnant employee.

Shawna, which trades as a homewares retail outlet Good House Keeping Australia – Cranbourne, breached discrimination laws by reducing a worker’s hours after she fell pregnant.

The employee, a retail assistant in her early 20s, informed Shawna’s owner-operator, Hui Zhou, that she was pregnant in 2011.  Zhou then sent her a text message stating: “You have a baby now, and I can’t let you too tires (sic)”.

Zhou later told the employee – who was working 23-to-27 hours per week before becoming pregnant – that her work hours would be reduced to only seven per week and she could accept this or resign.

The employee subsequently resigned, in what the Fair Work Ombudsman found was a ‘constructive dismissal’ of the employee under workplace laws.
Following a complaint from the employee, Fair Work Inspectors investigated and the owner-operator admitted breaches after workplace laws were explained.

The company has apologised, agreeing to pay compensation and revamp its workplace policies under the terms of an enforceable undertaking.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says that in cases of significant non-compliance, Enforceable Undertakings can be an effective alternative to litigation because they avoid the expense and delay associated with litigation and provide opportunities for continued compliance that may not otherwise be available.

Wilson said there are a number of ways the Fair Work Ombudsman can achieve compliance with workplace laws, and these Enforceable Undertakings are a key mechanism.

“Enforceable Undertakings are an alternative to litigation and result in strong outcomes without the need for civil court proceedings,” he said.

“They work by companies signing up to undertakings that may include back-paying past and present workers, public apologies, donations to not-for-profit organisations and workplace training.

“They are an important part of our Agency’s commitment to drive future compliance and help us remain confident we are upholding the provisions of the Fair Work Act.”