Celebrity divorce lawyer told employee he would 'kick baby out of her stomach'
Published 02/12/2011 | 07:39
A LAWYER nicknamed "Jaws" told a pregnant filing clerk that he would "kick that baby out of her stomach" because he did not want to pay her maternity leave, a tribunal heard.
Stacey Van Rossun arriving at Kingsway Employment Tribunal in London Photo: National News
Raymond Tooth, who represented Sadie Frost in her divorce from Jude Law and Patti Boyd when she divorced Eric Clapton, did not want “to pay someone for sitting on their ---- doing nothing”, it was alleged.
The clerk, Stacey van Rossum, claimed that the firm, Sears Tooth, even helped one trainee solicitor “get an abortion to help further her career”.
Ms van Rossum told Mr Tooth’s driver, Steve Rigby, in early 2009 that she was pregnant before telling the firm’s partners.
“He told me that Mr Tooth would not appreciate this and he offered to break the news to him for me,” she told the Central London hearing.
“This was because he believed Mr Tooth viewed maternity leave as him having to pay someone 'for sitting on their ---- doing nothing.’?”
When she finally told Mr Tooth he suggested she name the baby Victor after her former employer, Victor Chandler, because that was “where she would be going back to”.
Ms Van Rossum, 25, is claiming sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal and is also seeking to recoup unpaid wages from the law firm.
She was first employed in September 2008 as a £25,000-a-year filing clerk to support Mr Tooth’s three secretaries.
Ms Van Rossum told the tribunal that Mr Tooth first threatened to sack her in July 2009 when she missed work due to morning sickness.
“As the pregnancy progressed, Mr Tooth became critical of me and my pregnancy and openly abusive to me, sometimes in front of other staff.
“In July 2009 he threatened to sack me if I took another day off sick. He later asked me if I regretted my pregnancy and told me he was my saviour.
“On 21 July he told me, 'Do you want you want me to kick that baby out of your stomach?’ I was shocked, but I tried to ignore the abuse.”
Ms Van Rossum took early maternity leave in July “because working with Mr Tooth was very difficult”.
When she sought to return to work in February 2010 she was told the firm was considering making her role redundant. Mr Tooth claimed that due to a downturn in work in a filing clerk was a “luxury” the small firm could not afford.
He asked her to meet for a consultation but it took six months to arrange — a delay that Ms van Rossum claims was to allow the redundancy to “drag on” after the firm had stopped paying her wages.
In a meeting between the parties in February 2011 Ms van Rossum was offered an “offensive and dismissive” £800 as a “golden goodbye”.
“I believe that I was discriminated against on the grounds of my having become pregnant and having taken maternity leave,” she said.
Mr Tooth denied that her dismissal had anything to do with pregnancy. He told the tribunal his former clerk did not show up to work for two and half months after the agreed date for her return from pregnancy leave in July 2010.
When questioned why he didn’t inquire after her he said in a “busy practice” her absence may have “slipped his mind”.
He claimed that he wanted to discuss other possible roles for her because it was likely that she would be made redundant.
He denied he said anything about “kicking a baby” or that his practice had arranged for a solicitor to get an abortion.
“I do sometimes lose my temper and shout at the office but I also have a sense of humour and can engage in office banter,” he said.
The tribunal continues.