A former vice president at bankrupt financial services firm Lehman Brothers has alleged the company's administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, sacked her while on maternity leave because they only wanted 'staff who were there'.
Elizabeth Spencer, 35, is now suing Nomura Holdings - the company that acquired Lehman following its spectacular collapse during the September 2008 banking crisis - for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. She is claiming £150,000 in damages.
Ms Spencer formerly worked as an officer in the Army Intelligence Corps. She joined Lehman in 2006 as part of their security team and won quick-fire promotion to vice president in December 2007.
Less than a year later the investment monolith was declared bankrupt and Ms Spencer started maternity leave. Soon afterward, however, the company laid off 800 workers. Ms Spencer claims bosses overlooked her for alternative roles and dismissed her purely because she was away caring for her newborn son.
Last week, before an employment tribunal in Stratford, east London, Daphne Romney, QC, representing Ms Spencer, said: 'There isn't a single piece of paper that shows [the company] made any discussion of the claimant and what she could do.'
After losing her job, Ms Spencer said she had experienced bouts of depression:
'Despite being a confident individual with significant professional experience, I received a lasting blow from the line taken that what I had was of limited ability.
'The line promulgated by industry and social commentators that working-women would rather be at home is untrue.
'I was profoundly miserable while I was unemployed. The loss of professional status goes hand in hand with a loss of identity.
'I became depressed and stressed as the world closed in on me. I've worked from the age of 14 and I never envisaged not working.'
But HR employee Valerie Samuel told the tribunal Ms Spencer was selected for redundancy because her role was no longer needed. She said:
'We were told a staff list should be looked at to decide who was critical to help with the wind-down of the company.
'Mrs Spencer's role, which was focused on overseeing security, would no longer be required.'
She also said that two other women on maternity leave at the time of the redundancy had kept their jobs and denied telling Ms Spencer that the company only needed staff who were present.
The trial concluded last week and Judgment was reserved until a later date.
** Additional help and advice **
If you believe your employer has unlawfully made you redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave, you can obtain free, confidential and independent advice from Acas. You can also read articles and blogs on the subject on FindLaw. Alternatively, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You can find a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.