Whistleblowing dismissal likely to result in large payout

A charity worker was unfairly dismissed and victimised after reporting colleagues for mocking a physically disabled person, a tribunal has ruled.

The community outreach worker was unfairly dismissed and victimised after she made a public interest disclosure detailing how she had witnessed a co-worker doing an offensive impression of a physically disabled person.  The complaint was particularly pertinent as the employee worked for a charity which purpoted to support people with disabilities.

The tribunal also ruledthat the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for the employee after her working environment started to affect her mental health. It found the working environment was one of “frequent bad language and banter which overstepped the boundaries of acceptability in terms of equality and diversity”, and that there had reportedly been “racially and sexually offensive language and comments made that were derogatory to people with mental and physical disabilities”.

The tribunal found it was “more likely than not” other staff in the office found out that the employee had raised a complaint, with this creating a “‘them and us’ situation, which proceeded to isolate the claimant as the one who made the disclosure.

The employee started to develop symptoms of dissociation and suicidal thoughts and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, on top of a long-standing history of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

At a grievance hearing, the employer did not address the employee’s concern that her treatment had affected her health and underplayed the importance of the initial incident which started the chain of events leading to the grievance.

An appeal found that there was no evidence that the employee had been bullied or harassed for complaining about the incident. After resigning, the employee presented claims of unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and whistleblowing (public interest disclosure detriment and dismisal) to the employment tribunal which unanimously ruled that she was automatically unfairly dismissed for making a public interest disclosure, that she had been victimised and that her employer failed to make reasonable adjustments. A date for a hearing has yet to be set, at which the award to the employee will be calculated.

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