The owner of a chain of beauty salons in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, has appeared in court accused of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal by a former employee.

Natasha Bramhall has claimed in an employment tribunal along with other former employees that her former boss Andrew Rodgers, who is gay, was a “sexist bully”, reports the Daily Mail.

Mr Rodgers, owner of the Funky Divas salon in Sheffield appeared in court on Wednesday to defend himself against Ms Bramhall’s accusations.

She claimed that Mr Rodgers’ behaviour towards her changed when he discovered that she was pregnant because he was tired of his staff taking maternity leave.

Another former employee, Kirsty Diver claimed he told her that she was taking too much time off with her newborn baby after she went into labour following a car accident.

She said: “He later stated that in future he will be employing only fat, gay and lesbian members of staff as no-one would want to have a baby with a fat person and gays and lesbians would not need to be off for maternity or paternity leave.”

Ms Driver also alleged that she had her baby in the toilets at work while she was doing a client’s nails because she feared telling Mr Rodgers that she was pregnant.

Another stylist, Holly Webster claimed that she went into labour at the salon because she was not given a break and was only able to eat one cookie all day.

Former stylist, Tracey Everatt said she quit working for Mr Rodgers because of his bad behaviour.

She said: “Andrew used to say ‘I’m sick of these women draining the resources, I am going to make their life hell’. He wanted to sack someone when he found out they were pregnant. He just didn’t want the hassle.”

Stylist Emma Barton added: “Mr Rodgers was very sexist which was emphasised through a comment he made: ‘If I could get away with not employing women then I wouldn’t’.”

The employees described Mr Rodgers as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character who would fly into a rage if he didn’t get his way.

Ms Bramhall who earned a net wage of £205 per week at the salon said she became “anxious and stressed” before giving birth to her son because she was forced to work with products that were unsafe for somebody who is pregnant.

She said: “I believe he had a problem with me being on maternity leave.”

After returning to work in March 2011, she said she was basically demoted before she quit in September 2011.

Mr Rodgers denied all the claims and said Ms Bramhall did not complain about pregnancy-related conditions while under his employment.

He said he believed she was upset because he had tried to take action to prevent her and another of his former employees from setting up a rival salon.

The 34-year-old owner said: “I employ more women than men and over the years a number of employees have become pregnant, taken maternity leave and returned from maternity leave without any problems.”

He also asserted his salons were “dead safe” and when asked about his “fat, gay and lesbians” comment he replied: “I don’t speak like that. It is ludicrous to think that. It is not my nature. It is not me.”

The hearing was adjourned.