Mom's £90K Victory :Job Axed Over Kids' Ages Sparks Sex Bias Case


A marketing manager has won more than £90,000 in a sex discrimination case after her new boss found out the ages of her children and later rescinded her job offer. 

Fong Fong Lee was left 'frightened' following the 'out of the blue' enquiry from London property firm Vice President Wenting Zhu, an employment tribunal heard.

Mrs Zhu asked Ms Lee how old her children were and then six days later rescinded the offer of the £68,000 a year role after the mother of two said her oldest was four and her youngest was almost one.

The tribunal found that Mrs Zhu was angling to find out what childcare responsibilities Ms Lee would have and would not have asked a man the same question.

Ms Lee has now been awarded £91,597 in compensation after she successfully sued global property company R&F Properties QS (UK) for sex discrimination.

It was heard the sudden sacking 'threw her into a state of panic' and caused her 'humiliation' and financial uncertainty.

The tribunal, in Croydon, south London heard experienced marketing manager Ms Lee successfully interviewed twice for the job with R&F.

The company - which has an office in Vauxhall, London, but has it headquarters in China - offered her the post of senior marketing manager and agreed her start date would be November 1, 2022.

She was set to earn £68,520 a year.

However, on October 20, she was asked to attend a meeting with Mrs Zhu in what the tribunal said was essentially a 'fresh' interview.

A tribunal report said: '[Ms Lee's] notes record that Mrs Zhu asked [her] about her work experience, the size of the projects she had previously worked on and who her clients were.

'The meeting is detailed and reads as though it was itself a fresh interview.

'Towards the end of the meeting, but not at the end, Mrs Zhu asked [Ms Lee] out of the blue 'how old are your children?'

'[Ms Lee] answered that her children were four years old and that one was approaching one year of age.'

Six days later the job offer was withdrawn.

At the tribunal, R&F claimed there was a 'freeze on headcount' which came directly from HR in China and thatit could therefore not employ Ms Lee. 

It said the question about her children was to 'build rapport'.

Employment Judge Caroline Musgrave-Cohen dismissed the company's defence and found in favour of Ms Lee.

The judge said: 'We prefer the evidence of [Ms Lee], that the question was raised out of the blue by Mrs Zhu in order for Mrs Zhu to learn something that she considered was important in order to decide if [Ms Lee] was the right person for the job.

'[R&F] says that this is a question that would be asked of a man or a woman.. We do not accept that Mrs Zhu would have asked both a man or a woman this question.

'In our experience it is not common for a man to be asked the age of his children.

'We think it more likely than not that [Ms Lee] was asked this question by Mrs Zhu because she is a woman and that the same question would not have been asked out of the blue of a man.

'We consider that [Ms Lee's] childcare responsibilities were important to Mrs Zhu's assessment of [Ms Lee's] suitability for the role.'

It was heard Ms Lee was left 'deflated, confused and frightened' after the meeting.

The judge added: 'When the [company] did withdraw the contract of employment, [Ms Lee] was stressed and upset at becoming unemployed and facing financial strain.

'She had resigned from a previously stable job in order to take up this new employment.

'She was the primary breadwinner in the family and had young children, including one under one years of age.

'Losing her job threw her into a state of panic, humiliation and upset due to the instability the unexpected news caused and made her worry

about whether she should hide the fact she has young children from prospective employers.'

Ms Lee ended up taking a 'lower paid, more family friendly' job at another company.

Editor: CH


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