An upmarket restaurant and its owner have been accused of discrimination against a waitress who became pregnant, with the director allegedly stating she “looks disgusting”.
Abdel Wahid Tajeddine and his company Jewel Bay 2015, which operate South Perth restaurant Coco’s, are the subject of legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), which has accused them of breaching discrimination rules under the Fair Work Act.
The action revolves around allegations that a waitress aged in her late 20s was deliberately denied shifts and had others reduced in duration because she was pregnant.
According to the FWO, the woman – who was hired as a casual employee in February 2016 – informed Mr Tajeddine that she was pregnant in April last year. Three months later, as the pregnancy became visible, she allegedly had shifts cancelled and reduced.
At one point, Mr Tajeddine allegedly directed the restaurant’s supervisor to send the women home because she “looks disgusting”.
The woman’s appearance was also allegedly cited on another occasion as the reason for a shift to be cancelled on the day she had been due to turn up to work.
She has claimed that she lodged her concerns in writing to the business but did not receive a response.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the allegations are particularly serious. If found guilty by the court, Jewel Bay faces fines of as much as $63,000 per breach. Mr Tajeddine faces personal penalties of up to $12,600 per breach.
The FWO is also seeking a court order to force the business to undergo workplace relations training for all managers.
“Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin,” Ms Parker said.
“It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under workplace laws, and that they treat workers fairly.”
Coco’s has been approached for comment.
In January this year, a Sydney travel agency lost an unfair dismissal claim against it, with the Fair Work Commission finding that it had discriminated against an employee it fired because she was pregnant.
NSW amended the state’s anti-discrimination laws in March to remove “loopholes” that permitted employers to fire or refuse to hire a woman on the basis that she was pregnant.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.