Russian lawyer wins dismissal case after boss didn't tell her about redundancy as she breastfed baby

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A multi-millionaire Russian tycoon failed to tell a female lawyer she was being made redundant – because he ‘didn’t want to disturb her’ while she was breastfeeding.

Anastasia Tuchkova worked in London as a legal project manager for Russian mobile phone tycoon Timur Artemev, 46, before she became pregnant and went off work on maternity leave.

When she returned to find she no longer had a job, she was told by her multi-millionaire boss that ‘he hadn’t wanted to spoil her mood so soon after giving birth’.

Ms Tuchkova is now in line for compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and had been the victim of discrimination.

During her maternity leave, which began in March 2017, she emailed the company repeatedly asking them if it was ok for her to return in March 2018.

She never received a response and eventually sent an email saying she was ‘looking forward to her return’ and asked for an update on work done in her absence.

At this point, the tribunal heard, Mr Artemev rushed to arrange a meeting with Ms Tuchkova to tell her that he was not going to put any more money into the UK business and there would not be anything to do when she came back.

Pictured is Anastasia Tuchkova, who won her dismissal case after the lawyer was set to return from maternity leave in 2018 but was let go by her boss

Pictured is Anastasia Tuchkova, who won her dismissal case after the lawyer was set to return from maternity leave in 2018 but was let go by her boss

At the tribunal, Mr Artemev admitted he knew that there was unlikely to be a job for Ms Tuchkova when she got back as early as the autumn of 2017.

However, he said he had not told her as he believed ‘very strongly’ that breastfeeding a child was important. He said he felt he should ‘leave her undisturbed’.

He claimed he was concerned that the shock of a prospective redundancy might affect her ability to feed her child and said ‘the child was more important than the mother’.

When Ms Tuchkova came back into the office, Mr Artemev told her there was ‘no work’ and advised her to look for a new job.

A ‘shocked’ Ms Tuchkova said she wished she had known earlier and asked why she had not been given more time to fine alternative employment.

Mr Artemev told her: ‘I really didn’t want to spoil your mood when you’ve just given birth’.

The hearing in London was told the lawyer earned around £40,000 a year at Blackdown Hill Management Ltd. 

The business, based in Haslemere, Surrey was in effect set up to help manage the ‘work and domestic arrangements’ of the 46 year old, the co-founder of Euroset, Russia’s biggest mobile phone company.

He and his business partner Yevgeny Chichvarkin, an anti-Putin campaigner who is now living in exile in the UK, sold Euroset to the ANN investment company in 2008 for £765million. 

There were a number of meetings between Artemev and Tuchkova to decide if there was any way she could continue to work for the business, which did face financial difficulties, albeit in a reduced capacity.

Multi-millionaire Russian tycoon Timur Artemev, 46, (above) claimed he 'didn't want to disturb' the lawyer as she breastfed her newborn

Multi-millionaire Russian tycoon Timur Artemev, 46, (above) claimed he ‘didn’t want to disturb’ the lawyer as she breastfed her newborn

Eventually, Ms Tuchkova raised a grievance alleging she had been discriminated against and went off on sick leave with work related stress before finally being made redundant in July 2018.

Employment Judge Mary Siddall said that ‘although the situation was complicated’ by the time Ms Tuchkova was formally told she would have to leave, the reason for her dismissal was genuinely redundancy.

However, she continued: ‘We do not accept the [Mr Artemev’s] evidence that he did not wish to disturb or upset [Ms Tuchkova] whilst she was on maternity leave and possibly breastfeeding.

‘[Ms Tuchkova] had specifically stated that she wanted to be informed during her leave about other opportunities and company information.

‘There was nothing to stop any one from [Blackdown Hill Management ltd] contacting her during her absence.’

He added: ‘We conclude that although we accept that at the point the employment was terminated a genuine redundancy situation existed, the process adopted leading up to that point had not been fair.’

The tribunal ruled the claim of unfair dismissal succeeded. The claims of unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy and maternity and sex discrimination, both succeeded in part.

However, the claims of direct sexual discrimination, harassment and unfair dismissal relating to maternity all failed.

A remedy hearing will be held in due course to decide compensation.

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