How Laura Donnelly, expert Employment Law solicitor based in our Gatwick office, helped an employee challenge her dismissal on grounds of disability discrimination and whistleblowing detriment and dismissal.
Joanna was employed as a teacher at a secondary school. Shortly after joining, the head teacher started to bully her. This led to Joanna developing severe stress, anxiety and depression and she was signed off work. Joanna submitted a formal grievance setting out the dates and examples of his bullying and unfair treatment that had caused her ill health.
Joanna’s grievance was not upheld and she returned to work. She thought she was going to a back to work meeting but instead she was dismissed for Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR) due to the relationship breakdown. No attempt was made to offer mediation between her and the Headmaster. Nor were any reasonable adjustments relating to her ill health discussed to enable her return to work.
Joanna sought advice about her unfair dismissal. It was clear this was unfair but as she had less than two years’ service she did not have the right to bring an Unfair Dismissal claim.
We advised that potentially she had a disability discrimination claim due to the termination being related to her mental health and sickness absence and the school being unwilling to accommodate this. Further, that her grievance could constitute a protected disclosure due to her allegations relating to protecting her health and safety (and other teachers at the school) with a public interest of teachers wellbeing and quality of education.
We helped Joanna submit an appeal against the dismissal, asserting her claims, but this was not upheld. We also submitted a Subject Access Request to try and find why she had been subjected to such unfair and discriminatory treatment.
We submitted a claim for whistleblowing detriment and dismissal and disability discrimination.
We dealt with the initial Preliminary Hearing for Case Management and submitted medial evidence and a disability impact statement to prove she was disabled at the time of the dismissal as set out by the Equality Act.
Although Joanna continued to suffer with her mental health she found temporary cover work as a teacher but this did not cover holiday pay or provide a teachers pension. Joanna was concerned that the dismissal on her record were affecting her ability to obtain a new permanent position at her previous senior level.
We engaged with her former employer in settlement discussions as Joanna wanted a speedy settlement to protect her mental health. We successfully negotiate an award based on a sum equivalent to the middle Vento band injury to feelings award. There were no loss of earnings due to her success in getting another job straight away.
In addition, we were able to vary the usual confidentiality provisions and secured agreement to allow her to explain to potential new employers how the dismissal had occurred so that she could explain why there was a dismissal on her record.
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