£21,000 for HR manager sent laughing emojis from boss after losing job

£21,000 for HR manager sent laughing emojis from boss after losing job £21,000 for HR manager sent laughing emojis from boss after losing job

A pregnant HR manager has been awarded more than £21,000 in compensation after her boss made her redundant - and then sent her laughing emojis.

Mahnaz Rezvani was left feeling ‘without hope’ by Dr Abubakar Yaro’s ‘callous’ response, an employment tribunal heard.

A panel ruled the message was ‘particularly distressing’ for Ms Rezvani concluding he had ‘scoffed at her’.

She has now been awarded £21,681 in compensation after winning her pregnancy discrimination case.

The tribunal heard she started working as HR executive at the Glasgow office of Africa Health Research Organisation (Ahro) - a not-for-profit institution that promotes the advancement of global health - in February 2023.

After impressing bosses and passing her probation, Dr Yaro asked if she wanted to become an ‘onsite director’. However, she refused as she knew she was pregnant.

The tribunal heard Dr Yaro was looking for investors as there was ‘no money coming in’ and as a result, staff had been paid late in the previous months of June and July.

At the end of August 2023, she notified Dr Yaro that she was pregnant by email and that her baby was due in February 2024.

On September 9, Dr Yaro told Ms Rezvani to send out a message that ‘staff are made redundant for the next six weeks’ after he secured new investors and decided to step back from managing the organisation.

After a back and forth with him over several days, she emailed to say: ‘I feel like, based on my performance that you are aware of it has been proven if I did not tell you that I am pregnant, you would not think about making me redundant.’

Following this, she had no further contact from Dr Yaro or anyone else from Ahro until September 22.

On that date, he messaged her on WhatsApp, saying: ‘We need the key to your office for the new management.’

Ms Rezvani replied that she was still an employee and asked to meet with the new management, to which Dr Yaro said they were ‘not going to meet any staff on an individual basis’ and refused to pass her number onto them.

She replied: ‘That’s fine. Since you’ve already stepped down, I will wait until the new management officially starts their work and get in touch with me regarding the key.’

Dr Yaro then replied with a row of seven laughing emojis in response to her WhatsApp, it was heard.

It was at this stage Ms Rezvani ‘believed her employment was terminated’.

‘Dr Yaro had asked her to return her room key for her private room within the office which gave her to understand she was not expected to return to her place of work,’ the hearing was told.

‘The laughing face emojis left her feeling without hope that there would be contact from any other representative of Ahro.’

The Glasgow tribunal heard she was ‘very upset’ about losing her £32,000 a year job.

The hearing heard: ‘The final message of laughing emojis on September 22 caused her to feel particularly distressed.

‘She was in disbelief because she felt confident that she was a high performer. She was very tearful about the situation.’

She managed to get a job in HR at Royal Voluntary Service before going on maternity leave in February 2024 and taking Ahro to court.

Ruling in Ms Rezvani’s favour, employment judge Lesley Murphy said she believed she was being made redundant and that her pregnancy had ‘played a part in that decision’.

The judge added: ‘He does not refute that she is being made redundant or indeed that [her] pregnancy has been relevant.

‘In the days after her email, when [Dr Yaro] makes no attempt to contradict or correct [Ms Rezvani] about her perceived redundancy.

‘He engages in WhatsApp correspondence with [her] the following day and does not seek to disabuse her of the understanding that she is to be made redundant.

‘When he requests her key on 22 September, it is against a mutual understanding that she is among those affected by his plans to make staff redundant.

‘She is expected to renounce her key to the HR room in the office with a clear implication that she is not invited or expected to return to her contractual place of work.

‘We consider a reasonable listener would conclude this signifies the end of the relationship as far as [Ahro] is concerned.’

On the emojis, she continued: ‘When she tells [Dr Yaro] she will wait for new management to contact her, his response of multiple laughing emojis would, we think, disabuse any reasonable listener of any vestiges of hope they harboured that the employment might be rescued and continue.

‘With his laughing emojis, he had scoffed at her suggestion that contact might be forthcoming.’

Regarding pregnancy discrimination, the judge said Dr Yaro had a ‘change of attitude towards’ retaining her services after finding out she was pregnant - and two non-pregnant women were kept on.

She said: ‘We accept that the confusion caused by the opaque manner in which Ahro communicated (through Dr Yaro) the termination of her employment added to the stress she felt during the [September period] and that the callousness of the final laughing emoji message was particularly distressing.’

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