£1.1m Awarded to a Starling Bank Asthmatic Ex-Employee After She is Dismissed ( G Raja v Starling Bank)

The case of Miss G Raja v Starling Bank Limited dealt with discrimination arising from disability. This is a type of disability discrimination which occurs when someone is discriminated against due to something that results from their disability. In this case, Miss Raja, who was an asthmatic employee, claimed she’d been treated unfavourably during her dismissal. As a result of her successful claim, the employment tribunal awarded her £1.1m in compensation.

The Facts In Miss G Raja v Starling Bank Limited

Background – Miss Raja Passes Probation

In July 2019, Miss Raja began working for the bank. Three months later, she passed her probation without an issue being raised. Despite no issues, her manager, Mr Newman, told the employment tribunal that her performance was just satisfactory. 

This is because he prided himself on long hours in the office, explaining how he’d get to work 45 minutes early. On the other hand, the claimant would get to work just 5 minutes early and would remain for her contracted hours. This is because she would complete any additional work at home when required.

Also, it was noted that Mr Newman said feedback concerning particular matters had been given despite no formal performance-related discussion following probation taking place. However, Miss Raja disputed this, claiming she hadn’t been informed of such issues.

The Claimant Takes Sick Leave

Moving on, the claimant began to experience a persistent cough in October 2019, which she blamed on the office’s air conditioning. She outlined how she felt this worsened her asthma and tried communicating this to the company. However, the concerns she raised on several occasions were never addressed.

The following month, Miss Raja went to see her GP about her symptoms. Subsequently, she discovered that she had a chest infection and would need to work from home due to her condition. Then, in December 2019, the claimant took sick leave due to her asthma and had an x-ray the following month.

During this period, Miss Raja communicated her medical condition and impact on her ability to work with her manager. Despite this, Mr Newman failed to respond to her emails, making her feel punished.

How Starling Bank Responded

Mr Newman explained to the tribunal that the claimant’s performance had raised his frustrations by January 2020. Because of this, he decided to voice his dissatisfaction to the CEO and Chief People Officer of Starling Bank. As a consequence of these discussions, in February 2020, it was agreed that Miss Raja would be dismissed due to performance issues.

Several things, including Mr Newman and Miss Raja taking annual leave and her health, delayed her dismissal. On 4 March 2020, the claimant needed to leave the office due to her asthma and asked Mr Newman if she could go. He failed to respond, and she worked from home the following day.

Mr Newman contested this sequence of events, explaining that he and some colleagues didn’t recall her having a severe cough. Then, on 9 March 2020, Miss Raja received an email from HR asking her to speak to Mr Newman about her asthma. This was after receiving an email concerning government advice about the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, the claimant believed the following meeting would be about her health. However, this wasn’t the case, and she was dismissed, being told she was ‘not a Starling person’. Furthermore, she stated that she’d received no prior warning about the meeting or her right to appeal. Due to these sudden events, Miss Raja made several claims against her employer to an employment tribunal.

The Decision Of The Employment 

The tribunal dismissed many of the claims brought by Miss Raja but found in her favour with two claims. 

Firstly, the tribunal held that Miss Raja had been treated unfavourably by Starling Bank because of something arising from disability in her dismissal. They said that since she’d passed probation and had salary increases, any performance concerns would not have been sufficient to dismiss her. If anything, the evidence pointed towards good performance. However, they believed the claimant’s sick leave and requirement to work from home due to asthma played a part in her dismissal.

Moving on, the tribunal ruled that she’d been subjected to a detriment as her employer failed to hold a meeting about her health before instantly dismissing her. The tribunal briefly explained that the claimant took appropriate steps concerning her serious health concern by requesting a meeting to address it. They also stated that to avoid this meeting, her employer brought forward her dismissal, subjecting her to a detriment.

Compensation Awarded To The Asthmatic Employee

Following Miss Raja’s successful claim against Starling Bank, a remedy judgment was later provided, awarding her £1,145,386.31. Her award consisted of compensation for loss of earnings, injury to feelings and interest. The compensation was also grossed up to account for tax payable.

Disability discrimination can present itself in many forms. If you believe you’ve experienced some form of discrimination because of your disability, contact us today. We are experts in employment law, can assess the validity of your case and advise you on how to proceed.