Largest ever disability discrimination award at tribunal
An employee who was run over by a car on her first day in a new job and left disabled has been awarded more than £4.7m after being made to feel “worthless” and “unsupported” by her colleagues.
The tribunal heard that the employee was diagnosed with severe depression and psychosis after years of bullying behaviour at several London branches of NatWest, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
She made more than 60 allegations of harassment and disability discrimination covering the entirety of her employment at NatWest from 2008 to 2014, including being shouted at and being called “stupid” at work.
The employee was knocked down by a car in August 2008 on her way to start her first day at NatWest. She suffered significant injuries, including a broken leg and damage to her knee ligaments, and was left disabled with permanent nerve damage and a limp.
She was able to start work as a customer services officer two months later but needed to wear a foot splint throughout her employment. The tribunal heard that these injuries caused pain throughout her employment, and this affected her ability to work. As a result of her disability, the Claimant told the tribunal she was shouted at by other staff members who insinuated that her disability made her “worthless” and “no help” to customers.
The tribunal also heard that the bank made her work on the till despite her disability, failed to provide her with occupational therapy and did not adjust her workstation according to her needs.
She claimed that she was coerced into agreeing to a demotion and was denied a transfer to another branch because staff believed her physical disabilities would limit her ability to perform the job, leaving her feeling “humiliated”.
Following her resignation, the Claimant contended that she had suffered a serious psychiatric injury as a result of the unlawful discrimination that prevented her from working and which required round-the-clock care. The Employment Tribunal ruled that the failure to make reasonable adjustments to her workstation, requiring her to work on the till, the bullying comments towards her and not permitting her to transfer to another bank amounted to discrimination.
The tribunal also found that the discriminatory behaviour had resulted in her being constructively unfairly dismissed.
The tribunal ordered RBS to pay £4,670,535 in damages to cover her ongoing care plus an additional £54,266 to cover lost interest, a sum thought to be the largest ever awarded for disability discrimination, leading to a total of £4,724,801.