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Mother 'pushed out of top job'.

Byline: By PAT HURST

Multi-millionaire businessman Dave Whelan queried a pounds 30 petrol expense bill for a mother-of-two after a disagreement over maternity leave, an employment tribunal heard yesterday. Gaynor Stobie, 34, claims she felt 'pressured' to come back to work at the JJB Sports clothing empire founded by Whelan, the owner of Premiership newcomers Wigan Athletic Football Club.

Mrs Stobie, a pounds 48,000-a- year senior buyer, began working in March 2001 for the firm at its Wigan headquarters.

But after her first child, Harriet, she cut the number of days she went into the office, and worked from home.

But she felt under 'continual pressure' to go back full-time, with Mr Whelan insisting her post was a 'full-time job'.

Mrs Stobie, from Crosby, Merseyside, is claiming sexual discrimination against the firm because of her pregnancy. She is still employed.

When she became pregnant again, the firm began to 'push her out' she claimed.

Mr Whelan began to ignore her and at one point asked, 'Are you going to have more children?'

After her first child, Mrs Stobie agreed with a personnel manager to work either three or four days a week and 'juggle' childcare around her work.

She didn't want to miss her baby growing up and wanted to strike the right work-life balance, Mrs Stobie said.

But Mr Whelan was not happy with the situation and 'reneged' on the deal, Mrs Stobie told the tribunal sitting in Manchester.

'He then asked if I was going to have any more children,' Mrs Stobie said.

'I was stunned and replied I was not sure. He kept repeating it was a full-time job.'

In October last year Mrs Stobie and her husband, Craig, a telesales manager, discovered she was expecting their second child, Beatrice.

She said Mr Whelan began to 'completely ignore me'.

'It was as if I did not exist any more,' she added.

'I felt Mr Whelan was trying to push me out of the company.'

Mr Whelan then queried a pounds 30 petrol receipt - because the company cars use diesel fuel.

Mrs Stobie, then 11 weeks pregnant, said it was an error from the cashier at the petrol pumps, but was upset at the 'manner' she was questioned by her boss and left work in tears.

The hearing continues.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 4, 2005
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