Pregnancy related discrimination at work, what to do?

UPDATE 2:

As everyone here supported so us so much during our difficult time, I feel like you all are our second family and thus another update.
- The most important one first, our baby is okay. My wife and I are really relieved about this and now look forward to a hopefully smoother pregnancy from here on.
- My wife also resigned from her job and currently taking a few days break. During this break she will decide if she finds another part time or a contract role or starts a small business (from home). She is already feeling better, started to eat and sleep better.
- One of the members helped explain the regulation about maternity leave payment from Centrelink in a private message. We had thought we lost all our entitlements when my wife resigned from the job but thanks to him, we will most likely be able to qualify for the 18 week payments at minimum pay from Centrelink. So if anyone else is in a similar situation where they are getting stressed out at their workplace while being pregnant, don't be afraid to change jobs or even take up a contract. The criteria to qualify for the maternity leave payments from Centrelink are more clearly explained on humanservices.gov.au website. Send me a PM if you need more information and I'll help explain and forward the information. As one of the members helped me out here, I'll be more than happy to do the same for someone else!

Finally, I would like to thank everyone for your support, suggestions and being with us in our difficult time. I might upload a link to our baby's photo when he/she is born :)


UPDATE:

We went to see our doctor yesterday morning who has given stress leave certificate. We then had to go to the hospital in the evening as my wife wasn't feeling well and there could be a complication with her pregnancy, tests are underway. Taking this complication into account, we have decided that we don't want any more stress as the complication with the pregnancy has increased our stress by a several hundred times. Right now we feel that we don't want the maternity entitlements or money, we don't want justice or fight them for principle, we don't care about the wrongs they did. All we want right now is for our baby to be fine and healthy. This is a very hard time for us and we would like to sincerely thank the ozb community who supported us by posting suggestions and a lot of members actually posted links and details. I would also like to thank the members who went the extra step of sending me private messages and members offering me help with baby equipment. I'm really grateful to everyone here and I appreciate every single post.

We will be sending out the resignation letter tomorrow morning to them and if karma does exist then they'll get what they deserve or else they win and it's okay. Once we know that the baby will be okay, my wife has decided to find a contract or part-time job as suggested by one of the members. This is what we have decided.

We have learned some lessons out of this. If a job environment is toxic, leave straightaway and do not stay. I feel terrible because we made this decision of staying despite knowing this place was so toxic. We also learned that we should join the union from day 1 in her next job.

Thanks everyone once again. I really hope no one has to go through such challenges especially pregnant women who are exhausted and feeling sick as it is.


Hi OZB Community,

After spending days of stress, we reach out to you for general advise if any of you have ever experienced or know anyone who has experienced such discrimination and if they did anything about it.

My wife is pregnant and she notified her manager two weeks ago. Since that point on, she has been constantly getting intimidating emails from HR and her manager. They have started to blatantly discriminate against her. We believe their aim is to 'squeeze' my wife out the job by intimidating her so much and causing her so much stress that she has to resign.

We spoke to fairwork's general helpline and after listening to our story, they said it was discrimination and asked us to lodge a complaint. We feel that it is so unfair that she doesn't get any support and won't be getting maternity leave benefits if she resigned. However we are in such a stressed state of mind that we have decided to not worry about the few thousand dollars of lost maternity leave payments. But we don't want the employer to get away with this. So far we think these are our options:

  1. Resign and forget about it and have a happy pregnancy.
  2. Join the union and take this issue to the union.
  3. Lodge a complaint with the fairwork ombudsman.
  4. Contact and lodge a complaint with Anti-discrimination Board (We rang Govt. General and Legal advise as the number was provided to us by fairwork helpline. We spoke to a senior lawyer and he said it was clear discrimination and that we should contact the anti-discrimination board).

My wife has started to experience stress and anxiety and has not been sleeping properly and not been eating properly. We are worried that all this is severely affecting our baby. She has been one of the lucky ones to not feel nausea in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but because of these events at work, she has been feeling nausea and vomiting as well because of constant stress.
Have any of you experienced such a situation or know anyone who has? What did you or they do? If we went through the path of complaint with union, fairwork or any other agency, she can't return to work and will lose her job, is that correct? Is it worth complaining?

We are normal and honest people and live our lives normally without disrupting anyone else's. We have never been in such a situation before and thus very confused and stressed out. Please note that we cannot disclose any details about the employer or how are they intimidating my wife but the discrimination is very blatant which is surprising because from what we read on the internet, most employers who discriminate against pregnant employees try to not make it so direct and obvious.

Thank you.

EDIT: Another option is to seek support of our doctor and/or hospital to get a certificate to start early maternity leave. She's just started her second trimester and it might be too early so not sure if doctor or hospital will help. Has anyone started a maternity leave so early? Because we know the employer won't support and co-operate, we need a medical certificate to support our claim to start maternity leave early. If the hospital gives us such a certificate as she is suffering from anxiety and insomnia, can the employer still deny the maternity leave or ask her to see like their own independent doctors? Thanks again.

Comments

  • +16 votes

    Unless you give us examples of what they could possibly be saying, I doubt anyone can really help you. For example, if they suddenly state she isn't doing her job well she can turn around and ask for evidence and examples.

    As for your options:

    1. Resign and forget about it and have a happy pregnancy.
    2. Join the union and take this issue to the union.
    3. Lodge a complaint with the fairwork ombudsman.
    4. Contact and lodge a complaint with Anti-discrimination Boar

    Number 2 is not possible - since the issue already has happened, unions will only help with issues after you join to stop people doing what you're planning, eg joining just for a specific issue

    Seems like I would go for options 3 & 4 simultaneously if you can deal with the stress (and have lots of evidence which you haven't given us here).

    Otherwise if you can afford it she should just resign.

    •  

      Thanks for your advise. I understand that members here can't specifically advise on our specific situation as I haven't provided any specific details. We were told by the senior lawyer we spoke to that we do not disclose or discuss this matter with others if we are planning to take action. Although I'm not after specific advise, just general advise as in if members here have been through or know someone who has experienced this and is it worth going through the stress of the complaint.

      Regarding affording, we would definitely like the payments but since it's turned so bad. We have thought on expenses we can cut down and save on. Some examples are: we were planning to buy a nice stroller and baby seat but now we'll either buy cheap and discounted ones or speak to our friends to see if they have their used ones or find used ones on gumtree, etc. Obviously it is not ideal as it is our first baby and we want to give him/her the best we could but I can't see my wife crying everyday and not able to sleep every night.

      • +3 votes

        Its easy to find descent strollers/car seats on ebay and gumtree. Before you begin your search on ebay and/or gumtree, go to any baby store with your wife and try out different models and shortlist at least 2-3 Brand/model. Important - dont buy anything that does not meet the following criteria:
        - is less than 4-5 years old,
        - is from a smoke free and pet free home
        - not involved in any accidents.

        •  

          Thanks diasaha. We need to definitely apply brakes on our spending on baby related stuff. The fact that everything is so expensive and we feel like buying the best of everything means we spend a lot more. It could be because this is our first child and we are getting carried away a bit. But we definitely need to be smarter about the spending especially now that it's looking like my wife will leave her job.

        •  

          @Porco Rosso:

          When we had our first child, I started looking for stuff on ebay pretty early. I think the only thing we bought new was the car seat.
          Everything else - cot (didnt bother with a bassinet), change table, pram, etc, was from ebay or gumtree. And if you have a baby shower, you will probably get a lot of clothes and nappies too.

          I have no advice, but just want to say good luck with it all.

        • +1 vote

          @whitewatermelon: This is good advice. You don't need a bassinet, a cot is fine. You can get them from eBay / gumtree, then just buy a new mattress for $100 to $130, and throw the old cot mattress away. Also buy a mattress protector (waterproofing for mattress), babies make lots of gross messes, so you don't want anyone else's mattress, and you should protect your mattress from the baby.

          We got change table from eBay - $30 new from a guy in Auburn around 3 years ago, still works great. Pram was $400 for a second hand bugaboo on eBay, they are probably less now (e.g. city stroller seem to be a popular model for young kids, mclaren for the older kids).

          For young babies, the all-in-one white clothing things that Marks & Spencer do are ideal, they are a few dollars each, buy 5 or 7, and keep washing them. Good time to get them now if they still have their free shipping deal on.

          We rented a car baby capsule for the first 6 months ($150 from memory, would do again). Then beyond the first 6 months, for the car seat you should get one new for $200 or so. We bought a second hand one, annoyed us (cords kept getting twisted, pull it apart and find sultanas from previous kids, etc), threw it away. Car seats are annoying and frustrating, yet they get used so much and get a lot of wear and tear, but they are safety critical, so just get a new one, and get its installation checked by a professional car seat installer (may cost $10 to $20, just pay it especially when you don't know what you're doing, they get them really firmly/tightly installed).

        •  

          @whitewatermelon: Thanks whitewatermelon.

        •  

          @nickj: Thanks nickj, great suggestions.

    • +1 vote

      I would also ensure you have a copy of the emails.
      This can be a problem area, as they belong to the company, so copying them to your personal account may be against company policy, and lead to dismissal.

      How to preserve this evidence is something you need to talk with some tech savy legal people.

      Individual emails can be copied to a .pst file, saved individually, forwarded or printed.
      The .pst file can be blocked (likely only large companies)
      Individual saves is time consuming
      Forwarding looses some elements of the originator
      Printing looses lots of elements of the originator. Of course having this found in your desk could also create its own issues.

      What is perfectly fine, is to keep your own diary, listing all events.
      Document, Document, Document.

      •  

        Sorry if this is a silly question but trying to help here.

        Even if copy of emails are company property, would the act of copying for the purpose of evidence be covered under the Whistleblower Act?

        Otherwise, have to get a subpoena first which probably alerted the company and gives them time to expunge the evidence….

        •  

          Thanks burninrage, I'm not sure if the question is for me but I have absolutely no idea about the whistleblower act. I also do not understand your last sentence regarding subpoena. But it sounds like it can get ugly and messy. I'm honestly leaning towards option 1, but we feel so angry and unfairly done by. We also feel that if we let them get away with this, they will continue this towards other staff in future.

        •  

          burningrage, VERY difficult, if not impossible to expunge details. tracks are always left behind.

      •  

        Thanks Magus, you've made a very valid point. For someone who's never been in any such situation before we wouldn't know any such thing and could easily fall into a trap.

    •  

      Sorry but you are wrong on number 2 being impossible I have a number of contrary expdriences.

      It depends on the union I imagine.

    • +2 votes

      That's not true. Unions will help you. That's what they are there for. - unions are not insurance companies. They with for their members, not their pocket.

      • +1 vote

        Yes and no.
        They can only assist with matter fhat has happened prior to joining the union. So if op's wife join them now and has not resigned, there will be sort of assistance if the discriminatory behaviours still continue. If op's wife has resigned, pretty much on your own.
        My take, see a lawyer if you feel you have a case.

      • -1 vote

        They do require membership fee no?

        • +1 vote

          Yes, they do require membership fees.

        • +1 vote

          @Porco Rosso: exactly my point, unions will help you only if you pay them. It's not a free ride.

        • +2 votes

          @mcp2kpro: what is a free ride? They won't even be around to help people if no one joins them. Watch how our working rights will disintegrate then.

          The best bargain of the century is joining a union to retain your rights.

        • -1 vote

          I didn't even mention anything about worker right so try not to stay off track here.
          I'm saying, Union will help protect your right, only if you a paid member, no free ride. Understand?
          So as mnermner said previously, they are for their members and not their pocket is simply no true. Try ask for help when you're not a member.
          Cheers

      • +1 vote

        My union has a 'Pre-existing Industrial Issue Policy' with notices posted around my floor. If they agree to pursue the problem and you are not already a member then you are up for 6 months in membership fees. I think that is a reasonable balance encouraging people to be a member in the first place but not pushing people away that have a problem.

    • +1 vote

      Number 2 is not possible - since the issue already has happened, unions will only help with issues after you join to stop people doing what you're planning, eg joining just for a specific issue

      You made a valid point juicedpixels. Although it was our intention to never get into any kind of trouble and need the union. But if the unions refuse help as you say the matter has already happened, that is perfectly fine with us and we can't expect them to help.

    • +2 votes

      i think your wife should take stress leave for the time been, get a doctor cert.
      If what they are doing in on email hence written, you'll have plenty of evidence to show they are causing her stress.

      •  

        Thanks huntress_love, evidence is not an issue. It's whether we want to take more stress by pursuing this or we just forget it and get on with our lives.

    •  

      Number 2 is not possible - since the issue already has happened, unions will only help with issues after you join to stop people doing what you're planning, eg joining just for a specific issue

      Knowing a little bit about the union movement I have to say that in my experience that is wrong. I have been a member of three different Australian Unions, and was a shop steward and union delegate for many years of my working life. We would never have deserted a worker in distress, union member or not!

    •  

      Number 2 is not possible - since the issue already has happened, unions will only help with issues after you join to stop people doing what you're planning, eg joining just for a specific issue

      This isn't true, many unions will assist you even if you join after something has occurred. The level of the support may vary from basic support to full blown legal assistance but it depends on the union, the circumstances and how you approach them.

  • +2 votes

    If you say she has been getting intimidating emails and you already spoke to a senior lawyer and they say it is blatant discrimination then what are you waiting for? Not sure what area she works in, but sometimes unions will help out if you join up due to an issue that has just arisen. Contact your union and find out if they can help you.

    So get your evidence together and get to work.

    •  

      Thanks, we will contact the relevant union tomorrow to ask. We are just trying to assess if it is worth the stress for us to complain and what would be the outcome.

      Ideally we would like to start early maternity leave if we can get support from the doctor and hospital. We are even not sure what the rules are for starting early maternity leave as we would be required to give some notice to the employer before starting maternity leave (but is this excused because she has a medical reason and certificate?)

      EDIT: To answer your question, after speaking to fairwork and the senior lawyer from Govt. General Legal advisory, we believe that we are in a strong position and can easily take it further. However, in our lives we've never seen a lawyer or gone to court. You could say that so far we've lived a life which is clear of all troubles and which is why we are very stressed out. Which is why we are having second thoughts about it. A friend of mine who lives in USA and has sued several parties (went to court many times and fought lots of legal battles) had the exact same reaction, what are you waiting for? But for him, he's done this many times before whereas for us it's scary.

      • +3 votes

        Talk to your union first, some of them are very good at standing up for their members regardless of how long they have been a part of the union. I dunno what industry you work in, but if it isn't small business they might have some sway when they get on the phone to your wifes HR department.

      • +3 votes

        There's no doubt pursuing this issue via legal options is going to be more stressful than just resigning but I think it is the "right" thing to do.

        I think your actions would help others in the future if you held this company accountable.

        I would seek legal advice before resigning. As mentioned previously you should work out what records you need to save from work in case it is required in the future.

        I haven't ever had to go to court but I know pursuing these things is very time consuming and when you are working and have to deal with life it can be very hard. Good luck

  • +4 votes

    My wife has started to experience stress and anxiety and has not been sleeping properly and not been eating properly. We are worried that all this is severely affecting our baby. She has been one of the lucky ones to not feel nausea in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but because of these events at work, she has been feeling nausea and vomiting as well because of constant stress

    I would go to your GP, and let them know all of the above. if it is affecting her health, she should get a medical certificate and take a week or two of sick leave. She is sick, and it wasn't caused by the pregnancy it was caused by workplace stress, so it can use up sick leave. Think all this over in that time and call all the numbers fairwork etc gave you, and see what they say.

    I would imagine whether she goes ahead with a complaint or not, she doesn't want to return that workplace anyway. If it that bad so quickly, I doubt it will improve, even if they were taken to mediation, would she want to work there again? Personally I would pursue the complaint, I would feel like there was nothing to lose if I was going to quit anyway, and they should face consequences if it is as bad as you say. But that would be a very personal choice, if it causes too much stress, or if she works in a small industry and they could make it hard for her to work again. I can see why you wouldn't

    If you want to read about previous experiences, try these

    Register of outcomes of conciliation with AHRC
    Case Studies of pregancy discrimination handled by Inner City Legal Centre

    •  

      Thanks. She does not work for a small or exclusive industry and finding another job wouldn't be a problem. Maybe only getting a positive reference but we can get around that by requesting other senior staff (who used to work at the same place and left because of stress as well) to provide reference.

      You are right, she does not want to return. You could say that she's developed a phobia almost about returning there. Just thinking about going back there makes her start crying.

      If she resigns, she has to give two weeks notice according to her employment contract. She does not want to return at all and so we might have to see if we can use sick leave in lieu of termination notice. We read about using annual leave in lieu of termination notice and for that the employer has to agree to it, which we are sure they won't. The fairwork website also says that employer can withhold payments if she didn't gave the appropriate notice of termination and we are sure that the employer will exercise this as they are so determined on making our lives miserable. She is owed a reasonable amount of annual leave which we had been collecting thinking it will help when she goes on maternity leave so we don't want the employer to withhold this at least (as we are going to lose our maternity payments).

      We will do as you suggested and think over this in the next few days.

      • +3 votes

        I would go to your GP, and let them know all of the above. if it is affecting her health, she should get a medical certificate and take a week or two of sick leave.

        Absolutely this, but…

        She is sick, and it wasn't caused by the pregnancy it was caused by workplace stress, so it can use up sick leave.

        No, don't use your own sick leave, it's workplace bullying related so get your GP to bill them under the employer's Worker's Compensation insurance. Get a referral to a Psychologist & they'll help sort the issue out. Kick the bastards where it hurts; remember, a WC claim means increased excesses & premiums for the employer for years thereafter…your missus could also potentially stay at home on full pay for most of the pregnancy as a bonus! ;)

        I wouldn't worry about unfair dismissal either, as you said she works for a big organisation…once there is >100 employees, they're hard pressed to just sack people without jumping thru a shitload of hoops!

        • +1 vote

          Thanks StewBalls. We thought about worker's comp option but my wife has a friend who applied worker's comp for stress and anxiety due to bullying at work. She was sent to see independent doctors and specialists by the insurance company who humiliated her by asking her questions of her personal life from the past and present which were inappropriate and didn't relate to the issue. They then concluded that her anxiety was not caused by work but by issues of her past. This whole experience of dealing with the insurance company, "independent" doctors (who seem to be hired guns) and the employer, she went into depression and took her a good year and half to get back to normal after lots of counselling. We want to avoid any such situation especially because she's pregnant and a lot of people told us that stress is not good for her and right now she should try and stay as happy as she can.

          EDIT: Regarding psychologist, yes we are planning to get a referral from our GP to see one.

        •  

          @Porco Rosso: It all depends on how much leave you want to take. If you were wanting a short time off for psychological trauma (like 1-2 weeks), then the claim for compensation often isn't TOO much of an issue. (Obviously each case is different, just speaking from my experience in dealing with these claims.) If at the end of the 1-2 week period the worker is still unable to return to work, and it looks to be costing WorkCover (or which ever company is providing the insurance) a lot more money (in terms of wages, or counselling costs etc) then they will likely want to establish that the psychological condition is indeed workplace induced - hence the independent psychiatrist and psychologist assessments. I wouldn't say that the independent doctors are hired guns necessarily, but certainly they are different from usual doctors. Proving that the depression or anxiety is indeed purely work place induced is often harder than it seems - after all, we all suffer from stress from other sources apart from work (finances/marriage/crazy mother/ mother-in-law, etc). Your wife's friend is correct in saying that the whole process can be drawn out and extremely stressful.

          I'm not saying I agree with the way it works, just trying to share my experience.

          Anyway, long story short, if you are thinking to claim 1-2 weeks off to de-stress and sleep properly and recover, then it shouldn't be a big issue. (Sometimes it can be in fact beneficial. There has been times when a person claims stress leave through worker's comp, which alerts the big bosses / HR to the problem, and the worker becomes better supported when he/she returns to work). If you're thinking to claim 20-odd weeks all on worker's comp, though, then you should probably expect to deal with quite a bit of paperwork and indep assessors.

          Talk it over with your GP when you see him/her.

        •  

          @supersoda:Thanks. That does clarify it. My wife's friend did indeed take a longer leave because of anxiety. We might consider it again about woker's comp.
          Also, regarding getting attention of big bosses; a thought did cross our minds that we send out some kind of communication to the board of directors about this who can then get the managers to look into it. Not sure if we can do this or it will change anything but we were thinking about it as well.

        • +1 vote

          @Porco Rosso: No probs. In reply to your other question about asking your doctor to provide a medical certificate specifying that your wife needs to start maternity leave early… I think perhaps this depends on the nature of your contract. In general, if it is medically indicated (ie if your doctor thinks it will be of benefit), then your GP can write a medical certificate specifying that your wife needs to start maternity leave early for health reasons. The employer is bound to cooperate with this, otherwise they will be held liable for any deterioration in her condition… and most employers don't want to go there. The employer has no right to make you go to an independent doctor unless it is a worker's compensation case.

          The tricky part depends on what your employment contract says about maternity leave. If your contract says that you will get 6 months of paid maternity leave, and you stop working in the 2nd trimester, then your 6 months starts there… I highly doubt that the employer has to pay you for longer than 6 months even if you started maternity leave early due to medical reasons (but I may be wrong). So when the 6 months is up, you will stop being paid.

          If, however, your contract doesn't make a provision for maternity leave, then that means you will be unpaid for whatever period of time you are away from work. If that's the case, I think it's fairly easy, you can go on leave early (especially if there is a medical letter or certificate), and negotiate however long you think you will need - after all, they are not paying you anyway.

          GPs can most certainly provide a medical certificate specifying she needs maternity leave early. The only question is whether your GP feels this is appropriate (usually determined on a case-by-case basis by the GP). In fact many employers ask women to get a note from their GP to confirm their expected date of delivery ANYWAY.

          Oh, and congratulations on the baby!

        •  

          @supersoda: Thanks again, somehow in all this stress we have forgotten the happy bit of us about to become parents. We will speak with our GP and see what's her advise and whether she thinks if taking early leave for us is appropriate and supports it.

    •  

      Also, thank you for the links. They are very helpful. Especially the register of outcomes. After reading that we feel that we are not alone and discrimination seems to be happening to a lot of other women out there.

  •  

    Email your federal MP if you have spare time. Get them to come down hard on her employer.
    It sounds like a really toxic environment. Has your wife considered working part-time elsewhere?

    •  

      Thanks tendollar. Would it be okay privacy wise to email the federal MP? We are not sure how much details we can disclose, perhaps we can check this with the Govt legal advisory.

      You are right, it is a very toxic environment and my wife is not the first one who is experiencing this. She has known a lot of other employees who have left because they were stressed out (reasons other than pregnancy). Out of the staff who have left over the years or have been squeezed out, some of them swore to pursue action and might have even gone to fairwork or other legal bodies.

      EDIT: Not considered another part time role yet as we are not sure what to do with this situation and maybe not thinking clearly. But it is a good suggestion nonetheless and this is why I wanted to get suggestions from fellow members here as were are not in a clear state of mind at the moment.

  •  

    Hi,

    First of all you have my compassion.
    I understand how you feel having endured a bullying employer for over 3 years.
    Consider first and foremost your your and your wife's health and happiness.
    Money can't buy those.
    Maybe hand it over to a lawyer and let him deal with it or just let it slip altogether.
    The company already will create it's own bad karma by polluting it's work environment, other employee's will see what is really happen and make up their own mind.

    Look after your family

    •  

      Thank you RobMel for your kind words.
      If we do decide to take action and take it further, we have decided that I'll get my wife to give me full authority to represent her. So for whatever reasons, if they need to contact or get more information, they will ring me and not her. I don't know if this is possible but when we made a phone call to fairwork and my wife was first speaking to them and while explaining she started crying; she then asked them if I could talk on her behalf and they said absolutely if she was giving consent for me (as her husband) to do so.

      We first thought it would be harder (financially) to resign and take a very long break but we weren't thinking that she could actually find part-time or contract work in the meantime. So after the suggestion by tendollar above, we feel that is a good option. We won't be getting maternity payments but she can at least work until her condition allows and we can save up a little more in the next few months.

  • +2 votes

    Send a nicely worded email to the HR manager outlining the issue, state that she feels discriminated against due to her pregnancy and has already contacted Fairwork, lawyer, etc. and that she would like the discriminatory behavior to stop.

    Should they not cease, then take the issue further with Fairwork and a lawyer.

    •  

      Thanks Drew22, we have let HR know already that we contacted fairwork and that didn't seem to change anything. However we haven't told them yet the affect it's having on my wife's pregnancy. We will think about this option but the environment is so toxic that we doubt they will stop.

      • +7 votes

        Then lodge a complaint with Fairwork and start proceedings with your lawyer.
        Screw those assholes.

      •  

        These are the steps I would personally take based on what I've read so far.

        Take 2 weeks of sick leave to deal with the amount of stress.
        Let the senior management know of this bullying behavior and resign.
        Stay Happy for a couple of more weeks.
        Start looking for work elsewhere because you can get reference from past employees.
        If you think you have time and can deal with the stress fight it out via fair work ombudsman until you get the desired outcome.
        If you think otherwise, move on and welcome your first bundle of joy with happiness. Trust me, nothing comes close to the happiness that comes with the baby.

        Congrats on your first baby.

        • +1 vote

          Thanks newozbargainermelb. Your advise is pretty much what we were considering to do after lots of thinking and reading lots of suggestions here.
          The only thing we need to think about how subtle or clear should we be when writing to senior management?

        • +2 votes

          @Porco Rosso: In matters like this it is best to be as clear and direct as possible. Don't beat around the bush, don't sugar coat, but it also doesn't have to be long winded.
          Subtlety can be missed or misinterpreted, so is best avoided in situations like this. Might even be something you ask your lawyer to do on your behalf, as that will also show your consideration of legal proceedings.

        • +1 vote

          @therog1: Thanks, we'll try and be direct in that case.

        •  

          The letter that you write will be carefully analysed and brought up in any investigation. They will attempt to inject ambiguity and doubt. Your future statements may also contradict this written statement in some small way.

          I therefore recommend writing as succinctly as possible. Just a few sentences.

      •  

        You may want to let them know that (and how) it's affecting the pregnancy, because if they knowly continue with the pressure and create a more stressful environment, then you can hold it against them that they knew this and didn't do anything to change.

        Otherwise they might say that issue was never reported to them, and therefore was not a priority to address given their current information, then they'll say it's not their fault after everything has gone down.

        Make sure you have proof that you have attempted to engage with the company to attempt to resolve the issue as well.

  • +4 votes

    Yep 100% agree, take it further. Early on in my working life I was bullied out of my job by this awful older lady. Really demeaning verbal kinda stuff. I didn't realise how much of an effect it was having on me until one morning I woke up physically shaking, vomiting. I had a panic attack. I freaked out, saw my GP - she told me to call fair work ASAP and lodge a Workers compensation claim as well. I decided it just wasn't worth the fight and moved on. In reality it took nearly 2 years in counselling etc, every new job I'd start, I'd somehow crumble.

    So I say pursue it - it's one of those things where the principle, and the heartache of knowing you were doing your best yet were wronged anyway - it keeps you up at night.

    •  

      Thanks jackary for sharing your story.

      it's one of those things where the principle, and the heartache of knowing you were doing your best yet were wronged anyway - it keeps you up at night.

      This is happening to us. We are ordinary and hard working people. Never done wrong by anyone, never even seen a lawyer or gone to court before which is why the prospect of fighting it feels intimidating even when we are very certain that we'll win. The feeling of heartache is just terrible. We feel like good people have no place left, the people who are doing this will get away with it so easily. If we fought it and let's say they are forced to resign for whatever reason (pressure by the board, etc.), they'll get a better paying job somewhere else again in higher management and repeat troubling other employees elsewhere. We often wonder how do these people sleep at night knowing they are doing wrong by so many people?

  •  

    I would take stress leave (go to doctor and get signed off) and lodge a complaint with Anti-discrimination Board.
    This so called employer needs a good lesson.

    •  

      They do need a lesson, as mentioned before my wife is not the first one to have a bad time here. But we feel intimidated at the prospect of fighting especially due to my wife's pregnancy.

      •  

        If she still has contact with any others that have left, get in touch because it may well strengthen your case, and/or prompt them to do something as well.

        •  

          She does have contacts with some good people who have left or have been squeezed out. We have also thought about contacting these people but maybe not right now as the situation is very sensitive with my wife's health and we don't want any more effect on the baby.

  • +1 vote

    Do anything, but just make sure you don't let them get away with it.

    •  

      We feel in a similar way, angry and upset. But we also need to think about the baby. One other option is to leave it now and then lodge a complaint after the baby is born (if we still feel angry that is). We are not sure if there's a certain time limit on making such complaints but we will be making a mention of all this to our doctor so she has record of it.

  • +2 votes

    With all due to respect to those who say fight it, the most important thing right now is your wife's mental health. Yours is important too.
    Getting involved in legal disputes of any kind at this point, in my opinion, is not worth the risk.
    It's this kind of situation that can lead to post natal depression which is a hell no one wants to experience and is quite common.
    My 2 cents worth, is to speak to family to see if you can get some financial assistance, Your wife should quit the job and fight this fight later. She needs to have a relaxed time during her pregnancy.

    As mentioned by others, it is worth gathering evidence, going to doctors etc so you can fight this legally later

    Hope this all woks out for you

    •  

      Thanks cki, we feel similarly especially because we are not aware of how the legal process works and we are worried that they'll find something else to trouble us with. As mentioned above, my wife is maintaining a log book of events and we are going to show it to our doctor so she can keep notes on my wife's file.
      It is affecting me as well. I'm not sleeping well at night either and I keep thinking about this. I also feel sick in stomach and feel like throwing up at times but I can't show this to my wife who will break down if I didn't appear strong in front of her.
      As I suggested, financial assistance might not be an issue as my friends and family will be able to help. Also we will cut down on our spending on most things and if my wife resigns, she will find part time or contract work for a few months. I have also thought about a second job on the weekends to help save a bit more (as a couple of my friends own retail businesses) and they will help me if I asked. So financially it should be okay.
      We are considering as you suggested, quitting now and fighting this later. We are not sure if there's a time limit on lodging a complaint, but we feel that we are not cut out for this kind of stress especially at this time.

      •  

        I also feel sick in stomach and feel like throwing up at times but I can't show this to my wife who will break down if I didn't appear strong in front of her.

        I know exactly what this is like.
        Make sure you look after yourself too though mate. This is clearly affecting you too, so make sure you care for yourself. You can't help her if you're not coping.
        Talk to someone trusted, or a counselor if needed.

        • +1 vote

          Thanks again. I am considering counselling after my wife starts feeling okay-ish (at least starts eating and getting some sleep).

        •  

          @Porco Rosso: Good man. For both of your sakes though, please do this sooner rather than later.
          I really feel for you guys! 😞
          I know how you feel, and I know it sucks.
          It may not mean much, but please know that there are people (me included) who care that you guys are having a rough time 😟

  • +1 vote

    She can still take sick leave, as she's unwell. Then fight can be started later.

    • +1 vote

      Thanks fozzie. That is what we'll do. Take sick leave, make the phone calls to legal aid and see what our rights are and if we can lodge a complaint at a later stage.

  • +1 vote

    it's not worth it.
    like many others have expressed,
    the mental/physical state of your wife
    and unborn child is paramount.
    move on and embark on a new happier
    journey with your family, leave all the negativity behind.

    •  

      I disagree. This is patriarchal bullshit. If they want to behave like animals they can do it at home. If you don't fight them now they'll do it to someone else later.

      •  

        Hi BigNose, you are right. My wife is not the first victim and she won't be the last. But we need to weigh the risk before taking on the fight especially because of my wife's pregnancy. We want them to be held accountable, definitely! But our first priority is still a healthy baby and for all of us to be happy.

      •  

        big nose i can understand and respect where youre going with this, but you need to see it from all perspectives, not just from one.

        •  

          Maybe you should try and realize that this situation is basically 'prey on the vulnerable' and if the vulnerable don't do something, someone else gets preyed on. It repeats. Every victim is a victim!

        •  

          @I3IG N0sE:
          maybe you should try and realise that Porco is trying to do right by his wife and child, and not seeking a keyboard warrior to egg him on to do something he will regret.

        •  

          @Hiroko: whatever man. Just keep defending your family and minding your own business when it comes to everything else. The world isn't being destroyed by inaction.

        •  

          @I3IG N0sE:
          mate this thread is done, Porco has already made the decision to move on.
          Move along now son…
          Go find someone elses business to stick your "big nose" into.

    • +1 vote

      Thanks Hiroko, I'm definitely leaning towards that option but my wife is really upset that she's helped a rather bad employer for years and now when the time comes for her to claim something back (in terms of maternity leave), they do this to her.

      •  

        Porco,
        This actually happens to people more often than we may think. Understandably, the need to vent comes
        naturally, but try not to take it too personally.
        From one father to another to-be, I can tell you this will all fade away once you hold your precious baby in your arms.
        Wishing you all the best…

  • +1 vote

    Not sure if this has been mentioned already, but if you take this further evidence is important - keep a copy of all emails, and a detailed diary of all relevant conversations and what was said. Best to do is whilst still fresh in the memory.

  •  

    This is one time where I would side with @Lysander and suggest (non union) legal representation is your best bet.

    Companies aren't scared of fairwork - but HATE letters from lawyers.

    The lawyer can also advise on maximum amount you could get. In all likelihood it will be sadly LESS than your mat leave entitlement which is why companies keep doing this shit.

    Depending on the company bad publicity is their biggest fear - but you cant use that as an overt weapon.

    •  

      Thanks Wallyt99. If we proceed with this fight, it will be more for the principle and so that they (hopefully) not do this to other staff in future. We have already assumed that we are not getting any entitlement financially.

      •  

        I would also suggest you see if you can afford it get some formal legal advice about your options and the financial/personal and time investment that would be required from this.

        Sometimes law firms will pursue things for you for a one of fee.

        One option is: https://unfairdismissal.slatergordon.com.au/

  •  

    I tried to read all comments so apologies if this was already mentioned. It sort of seems like the most basic steps were skipped here or perhaps it just wasn't mentioned but has your wife spoken to HR and/or her direct manager about this? You are meant to try to work it out with your employer first before getting lawyers and fairwork involved.
    Also decide what it is that your wife wants as a resolution - I'd imagine she wouldn't want to return to work there so keeping her job is not the goal, if it's compensation then for what (ie mat leave she would've been entitled to had it not been for this situation). And lastly has this stress only started happening recently or had this been throughout her employment but being pregnant in conjunction with this environment has made it far worse? If it's the second then I would say it's not discrimination in the big picture but a toxic workplace in which case if I were her I'd either resign immediately and cut my losses so I could move on or I'd try to get an early mat leave start and then resign during the mat leave.
    It comes down to what she feels is important to her and what she feels she can handle.
    Either way I hope she has a healthy pregnancy and congrats to you both.

    •  

      Thanks ozbargainer888, it is indeed a toxic workplace and they were never supportive. But the moment my wife announced of her pregnancy, she is being put under targeted scrutiny and intimidation. If a lot of other people are doing the same thing or follow the same process, they don't get told anything but they put pressure on my wife and threaten her with legal management action. We understand that they are really trying to 'squeeze' her out.
      EDIT: Thanks also for wishes for pregnancy.

  • +1 vote

    I hope you and your wife can find the solution that affords her/child the minimum amount of stress and doesn't drain you finances. She and the unborn child are the most precious and important things in your life, both now and forever!

    You have found from the helpline and legal reps (Snr Lawyer) that your dear wife IS being discriminated against. You have stated you can get by without the maternity leave component.

    So I'd suggest rather than enter into a stressful and drawn out legal battle with a big company that will harm the normal loving home relationship and put undue pressure on all.

    Leave the workplace with the view the company sucks big time operates on the fringes of decency and just have a wonderful time and enjoy supporting your wife and have a stress free life.

    I would however, keep the nasty emails and all correspondence for AFTER the baby is born and then go public via FB and social media , not to defame (LOL) but inform and embarrass.

    Get your wife to draft a cutting and maybe sarcastic letter of resignation, stating the main reason for leaving is the decline of support in the workplace and lack of consideration for her advancing pregnancy and her needs , Blah Blah

    Please keep us informed of the health of your wife over the course of the pregnancy and such

    Praying for you all
    Blessings Shannon

    •  

      Thanks Shannon54, someone told us to contact the media (likes of ACA or TodayTonight), but wouldn't that be more stress for us. Company can then sue us personally for defamation and my wife will be rather well known and will have troubles finding another job maybe?
      We are keeping the log book of all events and we might consider lodging a complaint after the baby is born as I mentioned before. We are also considering writing a letter of resignation with clear reason of why we are resigning and maybe forward a copy of that to the board of directors.

  •  

    First off, congratulations on the baby.

    You need to think about what you want to do. The legal routes will not be easy. The employer will do all that it can do defend itself so if you are going to go down that route, try to gather as much evidence as you can. Emails and making journal entries would be a good start. Making notes of telephone conversations is also a good way to keep evidence. However this route will have stress and risk to it and it will take some time. If it goes to a court, the matter is unlikely to be resolved before the baby is born.

    You should also keep in mind that not all employers are risk adverse. They may take the view that it is easier to dismiss your wife and deal with the litigation than to deal with the litigation when she is on the book still. Yes, it is not lawful conduct, but the employer may not care, especially if they have a toxic culture.

    The union's assistance is out of the question as your wife is not a member. It is rare for a union to assist a new member with past claims.

    In my view, it is unlikely that your wife will be in her job much longer. Gather evidence for the moment and then lodge a complaint. You need to decide where to lodge it - either under the Fair Work Act at the Fair Work Commission (not Ombudsman) or the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act. Some legal advice in this area would benefit you greatly - but will be expensive. And you may not be able to follow through the application to finality (given the pregnancy and stress involved) but at least they will need to respond in writing to the Tribunal and it will be a different playing field. There are also opportunities for settlement and if they are smart, they will try to do that.

    And oh - don't begin the fight with "fighting for principle" in mind. It is rarely worth it, especially if you have a baby on the way.

    •  

      Thanks jman123, you are perhaps right. We should think about our baby first rather than fighting for principle.

  • +1 vote

    Please contact an Industrial solicitor. Let me know if you need one. They will best advise on what you can do.

    Don't do anything yet. That is, don't resign. If she is feeling unwell, she can use her sick days.

    •  

      Thanks cupcake, if we decide to go that path we will need one and I'll contact you. Never used one so not sure but I've heard that they can be expensive?
      But for now we are leaning towards taking the path of least stress.

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