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Pregnant woman branded 'emotional' by male boss speaks out after discrimination victory

The 37-year-old mum of two had to take an earlier maternity leave than planned due to the workload triggering multiple panic attacks.

Nicola Hinds, 37, is in line to receive compensation after a judge upheld her claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal following a hearing in which she represented herself against the FTSE 250 giant Mitie. (Credit: Solent News & Photo Agency)
Nicola Hinds, 37, is in line to receive compensation after a judge upheld her claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal. (Solent News & Photo Agency)

A woman who won a pregnancy discrimination tribunal after a manager described her as "very emotional and tearful" has said the feelings she expressed at work were not down to her pregnancy, but the result of her being a "stressed employee".

Nicola Hinds, 37, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, worked at Mitie, an FTSE 250 company, for over a decade and resigned after she returned to work from maternity leave due to an unmanageable workload. She later won a tribunal against her former employer for pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal.

On Thursday, Hinds spoke about the ruling for the first time on BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour, describing some of the difficulties and stereotyping she faced from the moment she disclosed her pregnancy to the company in April 2020. Prior to her pregnancy announcement, Hinds said her career was exactly where she had wanted it to be.

Hinds said she was labelled as “hormonal” by one of the managers at Mitie. She said: “The hormones or the emotional feelings that I was going through at the time was not because I was a pregnant woman. It's because I was an exhausted employee.”

The tribunal found that her bosses had handled her complaints during pregnancy "ineptly", with Judge Tynan commenting: "The inference was that she was not fully in control of her emotions because of the pregnancy and that she was making unreasonable demands as a result."

Speaking to Woman’s Hour, Hinds said her work environment had changed. She explained: “It wasn't the pregnancy that changed it, it was the environment itself.”

Nicola Hinds pictured with her family, Husband Gary and sons Tommy, 3, and Mason, 15. (Credit: Solent News & Photo Agency)
Nicola Hinds pictured with her family, husband Gary and sons Tommy, three, and Mason, 15. (Solent News & Photo Agency)

Hinds said the increase in her workload had triggered panic attacks, which in turn stopped the growth of her baby. After speaking to her doctor, she went on maternity leave early and describes that time as feeling like a “huge inconvenience”. She resigned in September 2021.

According to the Guardian, the employment judge who ruled in her favour said Hinds's boss had stereotyped her as “an emotional, hormonal pregnant woman and that in the particular circumstances, his description of her as emotional and tearful was dismissive and belittling”.

She said she was made to work on a project in which she had little experience. Hinds said, “I'd served 10 years in the operational side of the business, and shortly after announcing my pregnancy, I was heavily encouraged and somewhat pursued to undertake a more administrative role, and there were comments used that it would suit me better now.”

Nicola Hinds, 37, is in line to receive compensation after a judge upheld her claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal following a hearing in which she represented herself against the FTSE 250 giant Mitie. (Credit: Solent News & Photo Agency)
Nicola Hinds said her workload increased and that her employers asked her to work on projects she had little experience in. (Solent News & Photo Agency)

Hinds got in touch with Pregnant Then Screwed, a charity founded in 2015 by Joeli Brearley, who had also won a tribunal for pregnancy discrimination. Hinds said they gave her a mentor, and that gave her the confidence to speak up for herself.

"I was given some confidence back from a group of women that had been in a similar situation to me, and I thought, you know what, let's get that old Nicola back.The one that's got the voice, the one that sticks up for the underdogs, the one that says no, when things are not right and I thought I'm going to do this myself because I need to do it for me," she said.

Hinds represented herself at the tribunal against the FTSE 250 company. She said: “I thought, you know what, I'm going to do this myself because I need to do it. For me. I want to be the one that looks them in the eyes, across the courtroom, to say this isn't right, what you've done is wrong and I want you to change, I want you to take this and learn from it.”