Firm ‘contrived’ not to employ pregnant trainee

Employment Tribunal slams Travers for turning two posts into one to avoid giving post to pregnant woman.

Travers Smith found itself in the eye of the storm earlier this month when the Employment Tribunal found it had not given a former trainee a permanent position because she was pregnant.

The tribunal ruled that Katie Tantum’s pregnancy, discovered during the final seat of her training contract, was “the effective cause” of the decision not to give her a permanent job.

The tribunal dismissed Tantum’s discrimination claims regarding corporate and tax roles and a 12-month contract in litigation, as well as four unfair dismissal claims, but it found she was discriminated against when she was not given a permanent job in the real estate practice.

The tribunal ruled that evidence provided by the firm on the sequence of events that led to Tantum not gaining a newly qualified post was “implausible”, and found that a situation had been contrived whereby two places in the real estate team became one to avoid employing her.

According to the judgment, when deciding how many positions to fill, partners Julian Bass and Andrew King were “prepared to discriminate because of pregnancy”.

The ruling states: “Mr Bass was aware of the pregnancy of the claimant when he contrived the reduction of the second post. We conclude that the reduction of the second post was a device to prevent the claimant from being offered the post.”

The tribunal said that Travers partners and senior staff should undertake discrimination training and that this should be monitored.It also said there should be formal documentation in place so there is a transparent process, with feedback, for deciding which trainees get positions, as well as a procedure for investigating discrimination grievances.

Travers said it was disappointed by the ruling and vowed to stand by King and Bass. It added: “We sincerely regret that one of our former trainees was unhappy with her experience at the firm, and we will take on board the lessons to be learnt. Our trainees, associates and all our staff are fundamental to the firm’s future and we are determined to do everything we can to ensure they are happy here.”