Hong Kong – A woman is suing her former employer on grounds of unlawful termination. Eleanor Marie Coleman specifically notes how her former bank supervisor did not treat her fairly during a difficult time in her life.
Coleman is suing for HK$1.37 million (S$2.36 million). She had been the former director/vice president of the bank when she joined the company in July 2016.
In February 2016, Coleman had found out that she was pregnant but had decided not to inform anyone outside her family. However, she had understood that it was proper to inform her supervisor Feroze Sukh of her condition.
When Coleman eventually informed Sukh, he told her that the human resources department might not be so lenient about her being pregnant and still on probation. Sukh allegedly added that “having two pregnant members in a small team of eight would look bad on the team as a whole,” as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Unfortunately, Coleman miscarried during her eighth week of pregnancy. She continued to suffer heavy bleeding and underwent the necessary medical treatments. Doctors advised her to stay home and rest.
Coleman’s supervisor did not approve of her taking time off from work following her miscarriage. The supervisor allegedly made inappropriate comments about Coleman’s condition and family life, saying that she should be able to focus on her work, “now that it is over.”.
Coleman was granted sick leave until April 30 and submitted her hospital certification to her supervisor on April 26. To her utter shock and disbelief, she was fired on April 28 while she was still on leave.
Lawyers said Coleman wants the bank to issue an apology as well as implement anti-discrimination training workshops for senior staff and directors. They added that the ordeal has taken a heavy toll on Coleman’s mental state after her already distressing medical emergency.
Coleman is perhaps another unfortunate victim of society’s “motherhood penalty,” or discrimination against mothers in the workplace.
A study by the Women and Public Policy Program of Harvard Kennedy School found that mothers’ salaries were US$7000 (S$9466.80) less than women with no children. Mothers were also perceived to be “less competent and committed to their jobs” compared to childless single women. The study also added that internalized misogyny against mothers in the workplace was common even among female employees. The women perceived successful working mothers as “less warm, less likeable and more interpersonally hostile.”
Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) reported that “employers may simply be prejudiced against working moms.” Results from a survey conducted by EOC showed that only 47% of 436 surveyed employers would offer jobs to mums with young children.
Because of the lack of flexible working conditions in office work, mothers are made to choose low-wage part-time irregular work in order to still be caregivers and homemakers to their families, a full-time unpaid job.
In this modern age and even in developed countries, it is quite dismaying that we still treat mothers as secondary citizens because of discriminatory company practices, and the lack of labour policies advocating for just, and equal treatment.