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Discrimination at Work

Claiming compensation for discrimination at work can be a sensitive issue – particular if you are still employed at the place of work in which you were unfairly treated due to a protected characteristic.

If you believe you have been treated less favourably because of a disability, been harassed, bullied or subjected to victimisation, you should speak with an employment law solicitor at the first practical opportunity.

Subject to your unfair treatment falling within the Equality Act 2010, it may be possible to claim compensation for discrimination at work. Compensation settlements usually consist of an amount for the injury to your feelings plus any loss of earnings you have experienced.

Please note that you only have three months less one day from the discriminatory act to make a claim for discrimination at work, so please contact us to discuss the merits of your claim as soon as possible.

Mother of Disabled Child Awarded Workplace Discrimination Compensation

May 10, 2017

The mother of a disabled child has been awarded £18,886 workplace discrimination compensation after a tribunal found she was singled out for redundancy.

From November 2010 until March 2015, Maria McKeith worked part-time as an advice assistant for the Ardoyne Association – an advisory centre in north Belfast. She enjoyed working four mornings a week at the centre as she knew her disabled daughter was in the good care of a family friend.

However, in early 2015, Maria´s manager told her twice to take an extended leave to care for her child. Maria reluctantly agree, and on her return from her second leave of absence was told she was being made redundant on the grounds that there was insufficient funding for her position.

Maria sought legal advice and claimed workplace discrimination compensation against her former employer – alleging that her manager had assumed she would require more time off in the future to care for her disabled child and had made her decision on that basis.

In March 2016, an employment tribunal agreed with Maria´s perception of the circumstances and found in her favour. The Ardoyne Association appealed the decision; but, in November last year, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal upheld the employment tribunal´s decision.

In their judgement, the Appeal Court judges that the process of selecting Maria for redundancy was unfair, that there had been no effective consultation in relation to the proposed redundancies and that there had been no consideration of employing Maria in an alternative role.

The judges concluded that Maria had been treated less favourably because of her disabled daughter, and this represented direct discrimination contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The judges then referred the claim back to the employment tribunal to determine how much workplace discrimination compensation Maria was entitled to.

The employment tribunal made its decision this week, and awarded Maria £18,886 workplace discrimination compensation to account for her injury to feelings and loss of earnings. The award also included an amount of £2,126 to account for interest since the claim was first made.

Speaking with ITV news after her award of workplace discrimination compensation had been announced, Maria said: “I did not ask for any special treatment and I did not welcome it. I enjoyed coming to work, meeting people and being able to advise and help them and I knew my daughter was being cared for while I was at work. I hope that this will help make sure that other people in my position are not treated in this way.”

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Former Accountant Awarded Age Discrimination Compensation

April 6, 2017

A former company accountant has been awarded £182,000 age discrimination compensation after a Liverpool Employment Tribunal found he was unfairly dismissed.

John Peters had worked for Warrington-based Rock Oil Ltd for sixteen years when, in 2013 and at the age of 65 years, the management of the company made it clear they wanted him to retire. As the company did not have a policy for compulsory retirement at age 65 years – and had allowed other employees to stay on beyond this age – John refused.

A subsequent “hostile” internal meeting resulted in John taking a lengthy stress-related sickness absence. Rock Oil Ltd subsequently brought disciplinary charges against him, failed to follow the ACAS Code of Practice during the disciplinary procedure, and dismissed him. John sought legal advice and claimed age discrimination compensation against his former employers.

At the hearing into his claim, the Liverpool Employment Tribunal was told the company had failed to follow the recommendations of two medical reports that would have facilitated John´s return to work, cherry-picked information to support a pre-determined decision to dismiss him, and denied John access to the information required to defend the allegations made against him.

After investigating the evidence submitted to support the company´s defence, the Tribunal said it was “unreliable and misleading”. The tribunal awarded John £182,000 age discrimination compensation to account for his loss of earnings, his loss of benefits and the injury to his feelings. The award was enhanced due to Rock Oil´s failure to follow the ACAS Code of Practice.

In its judgement against Rock Oil, the Tribunal found: “When the claimant indicated he did not intend to retire, the management trumped up charges against him in what can only be described as a threatening manner, acted in a high-handed manner in relation to the medical reports and then failed to follow the recommendations of two medical reports to facilitate the claimant’s return to work”.

The judgement continued: “Management refused to follow the recommendations of their external consultant, lied to the claimant about his bonus, demanded the return of his company care, refused to provide the information the claimant needed to respond to the allegations against him and failed to carry out a fair and objective disciplinary procedure.”

Speaking after the award of age discrimination compensation, John said: “I am totally relieved that the matter has reached a conclusion after four years of stress and anguish. The matter was never about financial compensation but to preserve my good name and reputation in the field of finance and accountancy. I am also very disappointed that the company have shown no remorse or offered any apology throughout the whole process.”

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Woman Claims Employer Discrimination due to a Disability

February 21, 2017

A woman has told an employment tribunal in Southampton that employer discrimination due to a disability left her feeling “hurt and confused”.

Kay Sunny (52) – a clerk for the cosmetics company Estee Lauder – told the employment tribunal how, in May 2006, she suffered an epileptic fit in front of the company´s HR Manager and was rushed to Southampton General Hospital where she was diagnosed with epilepsy and a generic blood disorder that resulted in her also suffering a stroke.

While she was off work, Kay was paid a proportion of her salary under the company´s permanent health insurance scheme. The payments were supposed to continue until she was fit to return to work or until her retirement, but in August 2013 the payments stopped and Kay received a letter from her employer saying that she was no longer incapacitated and was fit to return to work.

Kay complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service and, in 2015, a decision was granted in her favour. Her health insurance payments resumed, but she was still upset by the tone of her employer´s unsympathetic letter – having not previously heard from the company for a number of years. Kay sought legal advice and made a claim for employer discrimination due to a disability.

At the hearing, a representative of Estee Lauder argued that the letter did not constitute employer discrimination due to a disability, but was a reasonable request on behalf of the insurance company to ensure the severity of the Kay´s medical condition. Kay questioned why, in seven years, the company´s HR Manager had not picked up the phone to see how she was or advise her that the insurance company was making enquiries.

Kay explained to the tribunal board that her condition had left her feeling low and depressed, and afraid to go out. “I hated the embarrassment of having a seizure in front of people I knew, being unable to remember things and getting lost,” she said. “To be blunt, I felt stupid”. The decision in Kay´s claim for employer discrimination due to a disability is expected in several months.

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Compensation for Workplace Disability Discrimination Upheld

February 15, 2017

A schoolteacher´s award of £180,000 compensation for workplace disability discrimination has been upheld by an Employment Appeal Tribunal in London.

In November 2013, Philip Grosset (46) – the Head of English at Joseph Rowntree School in York – gave extra classes to a small group of fifteen and sixteen year old pupils to help them prepare for their IGCSE exams, despite suffering from cystic fibrosis and being under extreme stress. Shortly after, Philip was signed off from work due to his ill health, and his classes were taken by the headmaster of the school.

During one of the headmaster´s lessons, it was learned that Philip had shown pupils the X-rated slasher movie Halloween. Philip was suspended and sacked from his £46,000-per-year job in May 2014 for gross misconduct. Philip sought legal advice and made a claim for unfair dismissal due to workplace disability discrimination on the grounds the school did not do enough to accommodate his condition.

Although his claim for unfair dismissal was rejected by an employment tribunal in September 2015, the school was found guilty of workplace disability discrimination and – in December 2015 – ordered to pay Philip £180,000 compensation plus an additional award to be determined to reflect his loss of pension. On behalf of the school, the City of York appealed the decision and the award of compensation.

At the appeal hearing in London, the three appeal judges upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal. They ruled that, although the decision to dismiss Philip was fair, the school had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the needs of a teacher with cystic fibrosis. In addition to upholding the award of compensation, the judges ruled that the leadership team and governors at the school should undergo training in disability in the workplace.

Speaking after the Employment Appeal Tribunal´s ruling, Philip said: “It was appalling treatment of someone they knew was ill. I was really shocked by the treatment I got and disappointed by their reaction ever since.” Philip has now retired from teaching and works in IT while still waiting for his loss of pension award to be calculated.

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Employers Warned against Blacklisting Employment Discrimination Claimants

February 10, 2017

Employers and recruitment agencies are being warned against using the government´s new tribunal database to blacklist employment discrimination claimants.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice launched a portal listing decisions in employment tribunal cases. The portal covers all areas of employment disputes in England, Wales and Scotland from age discrimination to maternity rights.

An unintended consequence of the portal is that employers and recruitment agencies can search the database of decisions to see if a prospective employee has previously made an employment discrimination claim.

Concerns have been raised by lawyers that employment discrimination claimants could be unfairly victimised and blacklisted, as the portal only gives the decisions in the claims and not the circumstances in which the claims were made.

The lawyers have warned that businesses who blacklist employment discrimination claimants could face employment tribunal cases against them if it is discovered that an employee has been refused a position because of a previous employment discrimination claim.

They refer to the court case brought against several leading construction companies who had blacklisted construction workers for their trade union connections or for raising health and safety concerns. The case was settled in May last year for more than £10 million.

Speaking with Recruiter magazine, Christopher Tutton – a London-based senior employment lawyer – warned employers and recruitment agencies to exercise caution if using the new portal to screen applicants and find out if they were previously employment discrimination claimants.

He said: “Recruiters need to be very careful about this as it could leave them exposed to claims of discrimination, victimisation or whistleblowing if they screen candidates for this reason.” Mr Tutton´s views were mirrored by commercial lawyer David Whincup, who added:

“If you find the individual you were thinking of recruiting has previously claimed discrimination, then a decision on that basis not to take their application further could run the risk of being unlawful victimisation.”

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Discrimination against Cancer Victims Returning to Work

November 7, 2016

Discrimination against cancer victims returning to work can be as high as 18% according to research released by Macmillan Cancer Support and YouGov.

The research was based on the experiences of 836 employees who had been diagnosed with cancer, undergone treatment and then returned to work. Researchers found that nearly a fifth (18%) had been discriminated against by their employer or a work colleague.

The charity reported that the vast majority of people in work when they were diagnosed with cancer returned to work because it was important to them. 60% of respondents said that they wanted to “maintain a sense of normality”, while 45% said they enjoyed their job and 54% cited the reason for returning to work as needing the money.

Macmillan Cancer Support said it was “worrying” that 15% of those surveyed said that they had returned to work before they felt ready, while 35% reported negative experiences unrelated to workplace discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. This category included feelings of guilt for taking time off to attend hospital appointments and a loss of confidence in their ability to do their job.

The charity warned that employers must take measures to prevent discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. Due to improvements in survival rates and later retirement ages, the number of people returning to work after undergoing treatment for cancer has been predicted to reach 1.7 million by 2030. Liz Egan – a spokesperson for Macmillan Cancer Support – said:

“People living with cancer should know that they have the full support of their employer to return to work, if they want and are able to do so. It’s appalling that, during an already difficult and often stressful time, so many employers are not offering the right support to people with cancer, leaving them with little choice but to leave.

“We know that, for many people living with cancer, work helps them to feel more in control and maintain a sense of normality. Returning to work after cancer can also be an integral part of their recovery, so it is crucial that employers show support and understanding to make this a reality.”

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Employees´ Age and Gender Discrimination Claims against Tesco

October 17, 2016

Seventeen Tesco employees are making age and gender discrimination claims against Tesco after the supermarket cut its pay rates for unsocial working hours.

The group of employees – all of whom started working for Tesco prior to 1999 – are taking legal action after the supermarket cut its rates for pay for Sundays and bank holidays from double time to time-and-a-half. Most of the estimated 38,000 staff affected by this change are male and over forty years of age – prompting the age and gender discrimination claims against Tesco.

The situation arose after negotiations between Tesco and the shop workers´ trade union Usdaw resulted in a 3.1% increase in basic pay. The company announced the increase in February and implemented it in July – making a lump sum “transition” payment equivalent to eighteen months of lost income to employees who were negatively impacted by the change.

Nonetheless, after seeking legal advice, the employees have decided to continue with age and gender discrimination claims against Tesco – a decision explained by the group´s solicitor, Paula Lee. Speaking with the Guardian, Lee said that the Tesco´s imposition of pay cuts on long-serving employees was a bitter pill to swallow and represented discrimination against older, predominantly male employees.

She continued: “It is the longer-serving staff in these retail organisations who usually suffer. Understandably our clients feel their loyalty is being taken advantage of; that the employer knows they are unlikely to leave their jobs and, in turn, that makes them feel vulnerable to further ‘no choice’ pay cuts.”

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “Earlier this year we announced a pay increase of up to 3.1% for colleagues working in our stores across the UK, in addition to a 5% turnaround bonus. As part of the pay negotiations we also agreed to simplify premium payments to ensure a fair and consistent approach for all colleagues”.

Tesco is not alone in facing age and gender discrimination claims from dissatisfied employees. A similar dispute relating to pay cuts at Marks & Spencer is ongoing, while legal action is being prepared on behalf of employees involved in discrimination claims against Sainsburys and Asda.

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MoJ Publishes Details of Employment Tribunal Awards 2015/16

September 9, 2016

The Ministry of Justice has published details of employment tribunal awards made for unfair dismissal and discrimination at work in the year to March 2016.

The MoJ´s report for 2015/16 make interesting reading. For the first year since employment tribunal fees were introduced, the number of applications for a hearing increased year-on-year from 61,308 to 83,031. Although the vast majority of disputes were resolved via the ACAS process, 744 hearings resulted in employment tribunal awards for unfair dismissal and discrimination at work.

The highest sum awarded following an employment tribunal hearing was £1,762,130 in a sex discrimination at work case. High employment tribunal awards were also made in several disability discrimination at work claims, although the highest employment tribunal awards for race discrimination at work and age discrimination at work were considerably lower than the previous year.

Unlike most unfair dismissal claims, discrimination claims are not subject to a statutory cap and can include awards for injury to feelings. That said, the highest award for an unfair dismissal claim was £470,865 which will have involved an unfair dismissal claim where the statutory cap did not apply. The average award for unfair dismissal was £13,851, up by about £1,500 on the previous year.

Other trends to be identified in the MoJ´s report identify a higher percentage of claimants being represented by solicitors (84% in 2015/16 compared with 75% in 2014/15) and a reduced number of costs awards (658 in 2015/16 compared to 870 in 2014/15). However this is the second year in a row in which more awards were made to claimants than employers, reversing a long historical trend.

With respect to employment tribunal fees, Unison´s challenge to the introduction of fees is due to be heard in the Supreme Court on 7th and 8th December. The outcome of this case – plus the outcome of a post-implementation judicial review of the fees – will likely impact the level of fees that can be charged in the future. Prior to the introduction of fees in 2012/13, ACAS dealt with 191,541 applications for an employment tribunal hearing.

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Compensation for Discrimination at Work due to Depression

May 10, 2016

A woman has been awarded compensation for discrimination at work due to depression after it was found she had been subjected to disability discrimination.

The woman – Ms Wickers – was employed at the Colchester branch of Specsavers as an optical assistant when, in early 2014, she was asked to work on the shop floor. Ms Wickers was unhappy with her new role as she found direct interaction with the optician´s customers difficult. Over the next few months her performance deteriorated, she had several self-certified sickness absences, and was often late.

During an appraisal in June 2014, Ms Wickers explained to one of the company´s directors that she was struggling with depression. The director responded by saying he had “no time for that sort of thing” and that she should pull herself together. Ms Wickers´ sickness and time-keeping did not improve and, in September 2014, she received a warning for making a dispensing error.

On 28th November 2014, Ms Wickers was again late for work. The director who had conducted her earlier appraisal called her into his office and started a disciplinary hearing without enquiring why she was late. Ms Wickers explained that she had been diagnosed with depression and had been prescribed medication to help her cope. The director told her that dismissal was a likely outcome.

Believing the directors comments to mean resign or you will be dismissed, Ms Wickers handed in a letter of resignation. She subsequently claimed compensation for discrimination at work due to depression on the grounds that she had been treated unfairly due to a disability. Specsavers contested the claim on the grounds that it could not have reasonably be known at the time that Ms Wickers was a disabled person.

At the subsequent hearing of the employment tribunal, the tribunal found that Specsavers did know – or could reasonably be expected to know – that their employee was suffering from a disability following the appraisal meeting in June 2014. The tribunal noted that the director´s comments at the time were unsympathetic and in themselves represented discrimination arising from a disability.

The tribunal also heard the reason for Ms Wickers´ lateness on the day she tendered her resignation was oversleeping due to the medication she had been prescribed. It found that her constructive dismissal represented unfavourable treatment due to a situation arising from her disability, and awarded her £7,500 compensation for discrimination at work due to depression plus £893 in costs.

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Compensation for Workplace Discrimination due to PTSD Disability

April 15, 2016

An employment tribunal has awarded a former employee of a care home £8,514 compensation for workplace discrimination due to a PTSD disability.

The former care home worker – Mr Nally – was eighteen months into his employment with Freshfield Care Ltd, when he was heard telling an elderly patient with dementia to “shut up”. At a subsequent meeting to discuss his behaviour, Mr Nally informed the deputy manager that he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), had been experiencing anxiety issues and was receiving counselling.

The deputy manager asked for Mr Nally to provide his doctor´s details, so that his disability due to PTSD could be confirmed, and said he would be monitored for the next two weeks. During the monitoring period, Mr Nally had an argument with a co-worker. The next day, he was summoned for a meeting with the care home manager and deputy manager. The outcome of the meeting was that he was dismissed.

Nally claimed compensation for workplace discrimination due to a PTSD disability under §15 of the Equality Act. He alleged that his dismissal represented unfavourable treatment due to something arising from his disability. He also claimed that the deputy manager had not obtained a medical report, and that he had difficulty explaining what had happened during the second meeting because of a stutter.

The employment tribunal upheld the claim for compensation for workplace discrimination due to a PTSD disability. It determined that Freshfield Care Ltd became aware of Nally´s disability at the first meeting, and the decision to dismiss should have been delayed until a medical report had been obtained and the company could make an informed decision about whether to take alternate measures to a dismissal.

The tribunal ruled that Freshfield Care Ltd could not objectively justify Nally´s dismissal, and awarded him £8,514 compensation for workplace discrimination due to a PTSD disability – £6,760 for the injury to his feelings, and £1,754 for his loss of earnings.

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