Claimant Wins Unfair Dismissal Case

In the case of Mrs G Yearwood v Department of Work and Pensions: 3307407/2018, the Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant faced unfair dismissal due to disability discrimination.

The Facts in Mrs G Yearwood v Department of Work and Pensions

The Claimant was working for over 30 years for the respondent at the date of dismissal on 10 January 2018.  In the 3 years prior to that, she had an exceptional illness absence record.

The Claimant came to work to hand in a medical certificate on 27 September 2017. According to the letter, she was not fit to work for four weeks, due to the stress. At the time, Ms Sweta Long was the Claimant’s manager and allegedly bullied the Claimant. The tribunal found that while Ms Phyills Fealy was tasked with handling her sickness absence matter, every decision was made by Ms Sweta Long.

On 12 October 2017,  Ms Fealy held a ‘Stage 1 14-day Informal Review’. The Claimant also gave her consent for an Occupational Health referral. The first phone appointment was unsuccessful as the Claimant preferred a face-to-face meeting.  Then, Ms Fealy set up a meeting on 31 October for the ‘Stage 2, 28-day Meeting’. Subsequent meetings followed.

On 6 December 2017, Ms Long received and reviewed Claimant’s OH report. She further adds: “After reviewing the OH report I discussed the claimant’s case with my manager, Harvey Nichols and my Grade 7, Paula Heffernan.” She claims both Mr Nichols and Ms Heffernan agree with the Claimants’ dismissal.

The Respondent’s witnesses tried to justify their decision based on the fact that the Claimant wouldn’t be able to sustain an acceptable level of attendance. Ms Maifredi, the senior manager conducting the appeal meeting, did not support the Claimant. Her dismissal letter claims she is unable to keep up with the changing demands of the role.

According to the tribunal, the real reason that Ms long dismissed the Claimant was that she saw her as a difficult employee. The sickness absences were used as a pretext for her unfair dismissal.

Furthermore, the OH report does not in any way support the unfair dismissal of the Claimant. It is clear that Ms Long has deliberately ignored it.  The tribunal says she justifies that by arguing that the report was merely guidance and that the dismissal was a personal decision.

On 3 January 2018, the Claimant attended a meeting with Ms Mahoney to discuss sickness absence and the circumstances of her case.  Furthermore, on 10 January 2018, the Claimant raised a grievance against Ms Long but nothing was done about it.

It was pointed out that the Claimant failed to make an effort to return to work and everything was done to help her come back. However, this was false as the Claimant was medically justified to not return.  Therefore, the request was totally unreasonable.

On 18 January 2018, the Claimant appealed against her unfair dismissal. Subsequently, another appeal meeting took place on 21 February 2018 which she attended. Ms Maifredi, however, did not uphold the appeal.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Tribunal found that the dismissal was a less favourable treatment because of the Claimant’s disability. The Claimant’s stress at work was a direct cause of her inability to work. Hence, making this a case of disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Furthermore, the Tribunal found that the respondent didn’t take reasonable measures in order to help the employee back to work. Although the Claimant has shown a willingness to return if she worked under a different manager, the tribunal classed this under unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.