Published: 12:00, 12 April 2014
A single mum has won more than £6,000 in damages after winning a sex discrimination case against a seafront club for ex-servicemen.
Gemma Marshall, 24, began working as a barmaid at the May Lodge Club in 2005 under the leadership of her stepfather Richard Eldridge and continued until its initial closure in 2012.
The club reopened as the United Forces Social Club in July 2012 under Mr Eldridge's control, before new chairman Michael Britton took over in March 2013.
He said he was confronted by costs which could have forced the club to close again, so began to make changes to save money, including changes to workers’ shifts.
Ms Marshall, of Talmead Road, said that the changes left her with no option but to resign after she arrived at work on Thursday, July 25, 2013, and was told she had to work a Monday evening shift.
She said that she tried to contact Mr Britton to rearrange her shift as she was unable to sort childcare for her then four-year-old daughter.
She told the tribunal: “I spent three days telling them that I couldn’t do the Monday night, but they gave me no choice about working that evening shift. Arriving on Monday I was told to leave.
“At that point I felt crushed, I was such a wreck, my emotions were everywhere. I didn’t know what to do.”
She resigned her post and said she did not realise they had already suspended her ahead of a disciplinary hearing scheduled on the Thursday night. Again she asked them to rearrange, but said her request was ignored.
She added: “I just felt they wanted me out. They had tried other disciplinary options. When they didn’t work they tried to use the shifts.”
Mr Britton denied bullying and said that Ms Marshall had asked questions about shift changes at a staff meeting in May - a claim she denies.
He denied discriminating against her because she was a single mum and said that he had been unaware of her circumstances and had tried to help her with previous housing benefit claims.
The tribunal Judge Peter Hildebrand and his assistants Mrs Dengate and Mr Newlyn found in favour of Ms Marshall, awarding her £3,915 for loss of earnings and £2,500 for injury to her feelings.
Reacting to the decision, she said: “It was a nerve-racking experience. I’ve had sleepless nights so I’m glad it’s over and I’m ecstatic that I won. I just hope he won’t treat anyone else in the same way as me.”
She added that she can now focus on clearing debts racked up as part of the process and focus on her work as a self-employed domestic cleaner.
Meanwhile, chairman Mr Britton said he was “devastated” by the judgment.
He said: “I’m absolutely surprised. I feel that the decision is loaded against the employer.
“Any financial loss like this could have a devastating impact on the club. It’s outrageous that we have been punished. Nobody at the club, the staff, committee or officers, believe we have done anything wrong.”
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