By Michael Nadin - Employment Law Associate P&O Ferries’ controversial mass sacking of employees on…
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A civilian police worker whose claims of psychiatric disability were disbelieved by her bosses, and who was sacked on the basis of vague allegations, has won the right to substantial compensation for the mistreatment she endured.
The woman had worked in a police force’s finance department for 23 years but had a history of suffering anxiety, stress and depression. She also had a heart problem and had undergone surgery six months before her dismissal. Whilst she was on sick leave, suspicions were raised that her psychiatric problems were not genuine and she had been placed under covert surveillance by her employer.
Her claims to have suffered extreme bullying at the hands of her superiors were met by demands that she return to work. A disciplinary hearing in respect of a number of unparticularised allegations was ultimately convened and she was dismissed with immediate effect for alleged gross misconduct.
In upholding her unfair dismissal claim, an Employment Tribunal (ET) described the covert surveillance as very heavy handed. Although her employer had genuinely believed that she might be falsely claiming to be sick, her disproportionate treatment had worsened her condition. There were also a number of procedural flaws in the disciplinary process leading up to her dismissal.
The ET, however, rejected her disability discrimination claim. In upholding her challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET had erred in its interpretation of Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. Her disability was an effective cause of the unfavourable treatment she suffered and a finding of discrimination was thus inevitable. The amount of compensation due to her in the light of the EAT’s ruling had yet to be assessed.