Mother blames bosses for her daughter's premature birth

Last updated at 13:13 03 January 2008

A mother claims she gave birth prematurely because of a 'campaign of personal harrassment' the hands of her boss at a law firm.

Naomi Mainwaring, 26, gave birth to her daughter Niamh a month earlier than expected in June last year.

She said before this she had endured 'months of personal harassment' at the hands of former colleague Lesley Crinson, a partner with Newcastle-based law firm Short Richardson and Forth.

The first-time mother, who is claiming sexual discrimination, told an employment tribunal in Newcastle that she fell pregnant unexpectedly in November 2006, six months after being taken on by the firm as Mrs Crinson's assistant solicitor.

She said she had made a number of mistakes due to inexperience, but said that all comments that were made by Mrs Crinson remained about her work.

But Mrs Mainwaring, of Blanchland, Northumberland, said her superior's criticisms of her took an "instant and dramatic turn for the worse" as soon as she told her bosses of her pregnancy on November 29.

She said: "Comments were now directed at my pregnancy and my personal appearance rather than the standard of my work."

Mrs Mainwaring told the tribunal that upon hearing the news, Mrs Crinson sat with her head in her hands before finally saying: "You are going to get fat, get piles and be really uncomfortable. Well, congratulations."

The tribunal was told Mrs Mainwaring suffered from severe morning sickness, occasionally beginning work a few moments late after having to stop her car on the way to work in order to be sick.

After vomiting at work on one occasion in December 2006, Mrs Mainwaring said that Mrs Crinson asked if she was OK, before saying: "You shall reap what you shall sow."

She also told the panel that Mrs Crinson had been unsympathetic after she was injured in a car accident on her way into the office while seven weeks pregnant in December 2006.

Mrs Mainwairing claims she was made to feel as if she had made a mountain out of a molehill by requesting a scan to ensure the baby had not been harmed.

Mrs Mainwaring, who is married to Jonny, 34, attended Newcastle General Hospital where she was told her back had been badly jarred in the collision, and advised to rest because she had high blood pressure.

She said: "I felt isolated and victimised. By this point I was extremely scared of Lesley."

Mrs Mainwaring is still employed by Short Richardson and Forth, which works in a number of areas, including employment law, but was signed off sick with work-related stress in February last year and is currently on maternity leave.

She said she had lost all professional confidence and was considering if she still had a future in law.

She added: "I have no intention of returning to work for Short Richardson and Forth.

"My daughter had tubes up her nose for the first week-and-a-half of her life. I feel the firm is responsible for that."