Disabled criminal injuries case worker awarded £30,000 after suing MoJ over dismissal
An admin worker affected by epilepsy who was sacked from her job at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) because she was unable to meet the standards of performance and attendance expected during her probationary period has been awarded more than £30,000 in compensation after suing her former employer for discrimination.
Lisa Boyle, 31, who also suffers from anxiety and depression, raised an action against the Ministry of Justice after losing her job with CICA.
An Employment Tribunal ruled that the MoJ failed to make “reasonable adjustments” and that the claimant’s dismissal amounted to “unfavourable treatment” because of her disability.
The tribunal in Glasgow heard that the claimant began her employment with the respondents in December 2017 and that her role as a customer services advisor involved dealing with telephone calls and email correspondence from applicants.
Her employment was subject to a six-month probation period, but after five months of performing well in her new job in May 2018 she took ill and required time off work.
The respondents, who were aware of the claimant’s long-standing health issues, put in place restricted duties when she returned and extended her probation on one occasion by two months – even though the policy allowed further extensions of up to four months.
An end of probation meeting took place on 2 August, during which concerns were raised about the claimant’s performance since her return to work.
The claimant suggested a possible alternative job as a case worker, but it was considered that it would not be a reasonable adjustment as it would involve a 13-week intensive training period and that the nature of the workload, which involved handling a large number of tasks, some of which were very complex, demanded concentration and focus.
The claimant continued in her existing role and her performance showed signs of improvement.
But on 2 August, prior to a meeting involving other employees, the claimant was taken into a private room and told that any news which was going to be given about fixed term or permanent contracts did not apply to her as she was still in her probation period and could not yet be confirmed in post.
The claimant then entered the meeting where around 30 other employees were told that those on fixed term contracts were becoming permanent employees, apart from those who remained in the probationary process – leaving her feeling “humiliated and degraded”.
The claimant was absent from work from 30 August 2019 until her dismissal was confirmed to her by letter of 8 October 2018, which stated that “despite the continued support and tailored adjustments, the evidence demonstrated that you didn’t manage to reach the level of performance that would justify a permanent contract”.
The claimant’s appeal against her dismissal was rejected, following which she raised proceedings claiming that the respondents failed to comply with the duties incumbent upon them under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments, and that by dismissing her the respondents treated her unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of her disability, resulting in discrimination in terms of section 15 of the 2010 Act.
‘Injury to feelings’
The stated: “The respondents failed to make reasonable adjustments to a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) they applied which caused substantial disadvantage to the claimant as a disabled person compared to non-disabled persons. That PCP applied in relation to a relevant matter. The PCP was that the period of probation of an employee could only be extended once.
“A reasonable adjustment would have been to extend the probation period for a second time. That failure was an act of discrimination in terms of section 21 of the Equality Act 2010.
“The claimant is awarded £4,000, together with interest, in respect of injury to feelings caused by that failure. Interest totals £480. The respondents are ordered to pay £4,480 to the claimant.
“The respondents engaged on 29 August 2018 in unwanted conduct related to the disability of the claimant which resulted in violation of her dignity and creation of a humiliating environment for her. It therefore constituted discrimination by way of harassment in terms of section 26 of the Equality Act 2010.
“The claimant is awarded £4,500, together with interest, in respect of the injury to feelings. Interest totals £519.23. The respondents are ordered to pay £5,019.23 to the claimant.
“Dismissal of the claimant by the respondents was unfavourable treatment of her because of something arising in consequence of her disability. It was in breach of section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. The respondents have not shown that dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”
In respect of injury to feelings, the claimant was awarded a total of £11,076.92.
She was also awarded £10,799.86 for past loss and £459.24 in respect of future loss.
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2020