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Martin Searle Solicitors

Case Study: Acting for an Employer in Defending Unreasonable Claims for Disability Discrimination

employment solicitors discuss giving employers legal advice on grievance procedures and acas code

Summary

How the Employment Law team at Martin Searle Solicitors advised and represented an employer to ensure that in defending Disability Discrimination claims, they provided a fair settlement to the employee.

The situation

Car Crash Insurance employed Anna as a Claims Handler.

Anna performed well in her role but soon after she ended her probationary period, she developed back problems which were diagnosed as ‎fibromyalgia.

Car Crash Insurance offered Anna a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment and provided her with various supports, such as an adapted chair and foot rest.

Anna had to go off sick regularly due to her condition and rather than her employer discounting periods which were associated with her disability, they instigated sickness absence procedures.

Anna resigned on notice when she received an invitation to her Sickness Absence Hearing, where the outcome could be a disciplinary sanction. In her resignation letter, she claimed that the working conditions at Car Crash Insurance had been responsible for the exacerbation in her fibromyalgia, and specifically her back problems. This is because they had failed to provide reasonable adjustments, that she had been treated unfavourably by her colleagues since her sickness absence began, and that the company had been intent on dismissing her without regard to her rights under the Equality Act.

On receiving Anna’s resignation, Car ‎Crash Insurance dismissed Anna with immediate effect so that there was no need for her to work her notice.

Anna instructed a solicitor to lodge her claim of disability discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. Car Crash Insurance prepared their defence to the claims and offered Anna £4,000 to withdraw her claim to avoid spending unnecessary time preparing for this case.

Anna rejected this offer and Car Crash Insurance ‎instructed our firm to represent them.

What Martin Searle Solicitors Did

We looked at all the evidence and provided full advice on the chances of Car Crash Insurance successfully defending Anna’s claims.

We identified that Anna was likely to be disabled under the Equality Act test but identified that the business had made necessary reasonable adjustments to meet their duties and obligations.

Anna complained that her colleagues had ‎ostracised her, but we established through examining emails on the company’s IT system that the interactions between her and her colleagues were always friendly.

We looked at how the sickness absence process was managed and identified a number of shortfalls. The sickness process had been instigated prematurely, the letter inviting Anna to the meeting referred incorrectly to a risk of dismissal, and the company’s approach in dismissing Anna with immediate effect (rather than allowing her to serve out her notice) could be classed as victimisation.

We identified that the business had legal expenses insurance and persuaded them to indemnify our client, with us acting as Freedom of Choice Solicitor. This meant that the insurer paid our legal costs for the remainder of the case and agreed to pay for any compensation.

We represented Car Crash Insurance at a Preliminary Hearing and prepared the case up to the Hearing while also negotiating with Anna’s solicitor. We pointed out to her solicitor that her victimisation claim was weak, and we offered a nuisance settlement of £2,000 on the basis that we would not pursue costs.

The result

Anna’s solicitor accepted our offer.

Car Crash Insurance’s insurers met all of our fees and indemnified the settlement value, meaning that the business only paid the £250 excess.

‎The company did not have to attend an Employment Tribunal hearing where four of their employees were due to give evidence and any reputational risk was minimised.

If you are an employer facing an Employment Tribunal claim and need assistance in defending your company, please contact our Employment Law team on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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