A young Queensland mum is suing BP in the Federal Court for discrimination.
Kirsty Rother, a Toowoomba mother of three, is suing BP and her manager on the grounds of discrimination after she raised concerns about the effects of performing a fuel tank check might have on her unborn child.
She’s claiming BP and her on-site manager then discriminated against her based on her gender and pregnancy, leading to her shift hours being “significantly reduced”.
After starting working for BP in Toowoomba in December, 2016, Ms Rother discovered she was pregnant with her third child in February last year.
She was working about five days a week, and studying law part-time, while her husband earned income as a chef. Part of her role included opening underground tanks and measuring the remaining fuel with a “dip stick”.
According to court documents obtained by Yahoo7, on learning she was pregnant, the mum spoke with her GP who advised her there was “some risk” associated with inhaling petrol fumes and she needed to take steps to minimise “direct contact” with fuel.
“I also found on a BP safety data sheet that there were warnings about risks to unborn children if they were exposed to petrol fumes,” Ms Rother told Yahoo 7.
Ms Rother said she spoke with the on-site manager of the service station and told her she did not feel comfortable performing the petrol dip task any longer.
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“We’re given protective equipment while we do the petrol dip but it’s only gloves,” Ms Rother said.
“We’re not given a mask.”
The court documents state the manager “did not respond favourably” and told Ms Rother other pregnant employees had performed the task before without complaint.
It’s further claimed Ms Rother’s father spoke with the regional manager, and while she was advised she would not have to perform the petrol dip task anymore, the mum was asked to undergo a performance meeting by her site manager a few days later and was told of alleged “deficiencies” in her work.
Ms Rother then spoke with her regional manager who she believes did not provide “adequate support” for her concerns. She turned to HR, but then found her work hours had been reduced from five days to one.
BP denies any discrimination took place
In a statement to Yahoo7, a BP spokeswoman denied that any discrimination took place and said the company is “committed to providing staff with a supportive and safe work environment”.
“Given this matter is before the courts we cannot comment on the specifics of the case except to say that BP denies that discrimination occurred,” the spokeswoman said.
“Our people are always able to discuss their individual circumstances and, where appropriate, we will put in place modifications to support them.”
Ms Rother claims in court documents her colleagues were “dismissive” and “harassed her” in “retaliation for making a complaint”. It’s claimed Ms Rother’s on-site manager had told her co-workers about the complaint under the intention to “alienate and harass” her.
“They made my time miserable,” Ms Rother said.
The 23-year-old is no longer working at the service station and has since given birth to her third child, Luna. Ms Rother said it was “extremely stressful” for the family to lose a second source of income.
“It put me under so much stress during my pregnancy and that’s time I should have been enjoying,” she said.
“It’s also given me anxiety to return to the workplace.”
Ms Rother said she decided to take BP and her on-site manager to court so no one else experiences discrimination in the workplace like the mum claims she did.
“I feel like big companies like BP have the responsibility to treat employees with respect,” Ms Rother told Yahoo7.
She’s now looking for a different job while she studies nursing.