It is clear to me that my pregnancy and subsequent maternity provided a convenient basis to squeeze me out of the system

I gave birth whilst I was on a foreign diplomatic posting, after occupying 9 years in a senior post. During my maternity leave I was placed under constant pressure, harassed and expected to do work and even attend some official meetings. Despite informing my employers that as I had just given birth, I needed time to get my affairs in order, obtain my daughter’s passport to travel, my request for an extension of my mandate was never considered. This was after my male colleague had got 5 or more extensions. In my case, I was deliberately kept in the dark as to the outcome of my request until the last minute, then abruptly told with hardly any notice that I was to return to my country. I was certainly not going to return without my daughter, as I was still breast feeding , amongst other reasons . The lease was immediately terminated on my apartment (I was still on maternity leave) and I was told to start packing for relocation, causing my family to search for alternate accommodation at the last minute. My appeals to my superiors fell on deaf ears. I was even made to feel that I had only gotten pregnant to secure certain advantages, such as an extension of my overseas mandate. (If only I was so good at planning such things :-)) My request for additional leave I was entitled to (and in fact stood to lose, if I did not utilise it), was refused, again without proper reason. I then requested unpaid leave of several months (which my employment policy allowed and which others had obtained, for lesser reasons, for even periods of up to 4 years) . I received no response to this and then suddenly, received a letter that my employment contract had been terminated. Thereafter I was bullied and harassed throughout a series of events. To date (11 months later) I have not been paid the contractual monies owing to me (such as leave pay and other amounts), despite several requests. Notwithstanding being told that my previous employer would pay for certain expenses relating to my relocation, now they are claiming that I am not entitled to it and have got one of their creditors to claim payment for expenses they incurred, from me. 11 months down the line it is clear to me that my pregnancy and subsequent maternity provided a convenient basis to squeeze me out of the system. I have spoken to other women in the same organisation who were good at their jobs, had also had their contracts terminated. One women in my office who returned from maternity leave, receiving similar harassment, was told on her return from maternity leave that instead of breast-feeding her child, she should switch to formula milk, since her lunchtime trips home to breastfeed was inconvenient for them. I tried to get legal advice but the lawyer I was working for ended up being on the payroll of my employer. He found it convenient not to disclose this fact, charge me fees, until the very end (a week before the day for lodging my unfair dismissal claim expired). Despite laws to prevent maternity discrimination in my country, clearly these are not working. There should be stronger measures to prevent women from being abused like this, and employers getting away with it.

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