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Halimee v Santarelli T/A Seaside Salon [2014] SAEOT 6

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A recent decision of the SA Equal Opportunity Tribunal serves as a timely reminder to employers of the costs of pregnancy discrimination.

Ms Halimee was an apprentice hairdresser employed by Ms Santarelli at the Seaside Salon. Her employment at the salon was terminated some 3 months after Ms Halimee informed her employer that she was pregnant. Ms Halimee claimed that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of her pregnancy, in particular:

  • when she advised her Ms Santarelli that she was pregnant, Ms Santarelli said she did not know what to do with her or how she could “keep her”;
  • when she expressed concern about applying spray tans and provided doctor’s advice that she should not do so whilst pregnant, that Ms Santarelli told her she was “using her pregnancy as an excuse” to avoid work;
  • that her employer’s attitude towards her changed dramatically after she advised of her pregnancy;
  • that the termination of her employment was because of her pregnancy.

At the hearing, the Tribunal overall preferred the evidence of Ms Halimee over that of Ms Santarelli (who gave conflicting evidence) and found that whilst not all of the allegations were made out or amounted to discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, overall they were satisfied that Ms Santarelli’s conduct towards Ms Halimee changed upon learning that Ms Halimee was pregnant. Further, they found that this change in conduct, combined with Ms Santarelli’s attempted termination of Ms Halimee’s employment, constituted unlawful conduct under the Equal Opportunity Act and noted that “once she knew Ms Halimee was pregnant, she treated her, in the work context, with an element of suspicion and distance which had not previously been present between them”.

Ms Halimee was awarded $5,000 for injury to feeling.