Unfair dismissal and discrimination resulted in an award of over £269,000
A hospital clerical officer has been awarded £269,114 after she was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against for repeatedly checking her own medical files while at work.
The employee worked for the hospital trust for 25 years before her dismissal. An employment tribunal heard that she suffered from depression, anxiety and chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, which interfered with her ability to work. These conditions, particularly her anxiety and fibromyalgia, caused her to repeatedly check her medical record.
After becoming aware that she was checking these records, the trust commenced an investigation, which the tribunal heard caused the employee further anxiety. The tribunal found that the employee was unfairly dismissed and subjected to disability discrimination because the trust did not take into account the fact that her behaviour – accessing medical records– arose from her disability.
The judge found that the employee could not be found “culpable or blameworthy” because her conduct was the result of “long-standing, pre-existing physical and psychological conditions”.
When determining an award, the tribunal factored in the fact that the Claimant had been unable to find another job – not least because of the “inaccurate and misleading reference” that the hospital trust provided to prospective employers.
The tribunal awarded £265,719 as compensation for disability discrimination, including interest of £6,962, and a further £3,395 as damages for breach of contract in respect of notice.
Employers must expect to be challenged on what steps they undertook to understand the link between the employee’s disability and the behaviour that is the subject of the disciplinary process.