'Taunts from woman boss made me give birth prematurely,' says solicitor


Last updated at 00:06 04 January 2008

A solicitor gave birth a month prematurely because she was tormented by her unsympathetic boss, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Naomi Mainwaring, 26, claims she endured months of harassment at the hands of law firm partner Lesley Crinson.

By the time she gave birth to her daughter Niamh last June she says she had become terrified of her manager.

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Naomi Mainwaring

Mrs Mainwaring said she became pregnant unexpectedly in November 2006, six months after starting work as an assistant solicitor at Short Richardson and Forth in Newcastle upon Tyne.

She claimed she was pulled up on mistakes she made at work in her early months.

But after telling Mrs Crinson, 53, she was pregnant she claims her boss's criticisms ceased to be work-related.

"Comments were now directed at my pregnancy and my personal appearance rather than the standard of my work," said Mrs Mainwaring.

She is claiming sexual discrimination and says Mrs Crinson instantly took a dim view of her pregnancy.

Upon hearing the news Mrs Crinson is said to have sat with her head in her hands before finally telling her assistant: "You are going to get fat, get piles and be really uncomfortable. Well, congratulations."

During the next few weeks Mrs Mainwaring, whose husband Jonny, 34, was at the hearing, suffered from severe morning sickness.

After being sick at work in December 2006, Mrs Mainwaring said her boss asked if she was okay, before adding: "You shall reap what you shall sow."

The relationship deteriorated further that month when Mrs Mainwaring, who by then was seven weeks pregnant, was involved in a car crash.

She told Mrs Crinson she was going to hospital for a scan to make sure the baby had not been harmed but claims she was instantly made to feel as though she was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Despite this, she went to Newcastle General Hospital where she was told her back had been badly jarred in the collision and she had high blood pressure.

As a result doctors advised her to stay at home and rest.

Mrs Mainwaring, from Blanchland, Northumberland, said: "I felt isolated and victimised. By this point I was extremely scared of Lesley."

Two months later, in February 2007, she was signed off sick with workrelated stress.

She told the tribunal that when she went into labour on June 26 doctors told her it was more than likely the premature birth had been caused by the stress she had endured during the previous months.

She said: "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."

Mrs Mainwaring is still employed by Short Richardson and Forth - which works in a number of areas, including employment law - but is on maternity leave.

She said she had lost all professional confidence because of her treatment at the hands of Mrs Crinson and is unsure if she still has a future in the law.

Mrs Crinson, a mother-of-two from Whitley Bay, told the hearing she had never "in any way" harassed Mrs Mainwaring or treated her differently because of her pregnancy.

She said she became concerned about the standard of Mrs Mainwaring's work before she learned of her pregnancy and added: "I felt she did not see her job as a priority.

"I did say that she would get fat, get piles and be really uncomfortable but that it would all be worth it in the end and she would have a baby.

"I remember-having a very nice and lengthy conversation about babies and how lovely it would be. My congratulations were sincere."

She denied suggesting Mrs Mainwaring was wasting time with her hospital appointments about the baby but rather felt that the NHS was wasting Mrs Mainwaring's time.

The hearing continues.