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Martin Searle Solicitors

Case Study: Defending Claims of Disability and Sex Discrimination on behalf of an Employer

Employment Law Solicitors

How Fiona Martin, Employment Law solicitor based in our Crawley office, defended an employer facing claims of sex and disability discrimination when dismissing an employee for gross misconduct.

The situation

Roy, the MD at accountancy firm Hardy & Co, had several issues with Julia, a young female employee, employed as an Account Manager.

Julia had only been working for the company for five months and Roy had already extended her probationary period by another 3 months. Although Julia had potential, she could be aggressive and confrontational.

Julia had an epileptic fit in the office. An ambulance was called but she refused to go to the hospital. Her colleague overheard her telling the paramedic that she wouldn’t go as they would notify DVLC and she would lose her driving licence and her job.

Roy arranged a meeting to tell Julia she should be office based from now on. He reminded her she owed a duty of care to others on the road.

Julia asked for confirmation that her probation period would be passed and Roy said he was not able to do this. Julia stormed out of the meeting. A colleague reported that Julia had left his office and was shouting and swearing that Roy couldn’t sack her because of her epilepsy as this would be disability discrimination.

Hardy & Co had employer legal expense insurance but Roy wanted our firm to deal with this case due to Fiona’s expertise in dealing with discrimination claims.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Fiona advised that she would make sure all actions would be authorised by the insurer so that their legal expense insurance would still indemnify any claims against the company.

Fiona advised that Julia should be suspended on full pay pending an investigation that she was guilty of gross misconduct.

Julia raised serious complaints that Roy had threatened her with dismissal and that he had failed to make reasonable adjustments because of her disability. She also raised allegations of sex discrimination saying that Roy had said he did not want to employ females as they get pregnant.

Despite being told when suspended not to contact colleagues, she had been in touch with the receptionist.

Fiona advised that Hardy & Co should contact Julia to see if she wanted to formalise her complaints into a grievance.

A disciplinary hearing was arranged with Christianne Silverwood instructed as HR Advisor to chair and take notes at this meeting. Another director, David, was the decision maker who would decide whether the disciplinary allegations should be upheld and if so whether she should be dismissed.

The letter inviting Julia to her disciplinary hearing warned her that the outcome might be dismissal for gross misconduct without notice. Julia said she was too ill to attend and the first hearing was postponed. She was asked for a GP letter to set out why she could not attend a reconvened hearing.

Julia made a Subject Access Request and it was arranged for her to come into the office to look at her personnel file.

Julia failed to provide a sick note so a new disciplinary meeting was organised. Julia asked to bring a solicitor and this was refused as she was only entitled to bring a work colleague or trade union representative. Julia did not turn up for her disciplinary meeting. She was dismissed for gross misconduct with immediate effect in her absence. Fiona made sure that the company’s legal expense insurers read all the documents and were prepared to authorise cover if there was an Employment Tribunal claim.

A grievance hearing was offered to deal with Julia’s allegations but she did not follow up on this and neither did she appeal her dismissal. She did not make a disability discrimination or a sex discrimination claims to the Employment Tribunal.

The result

Roy was relieved that this very difficult employment law issue was dealt with swiftly due to the disruption caused to their business in terms of management time, staff morale and reputation.

For expert advice defending claims of disability discrimination and sex discrimination, contact our expert Employment Law solicitors on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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