Employee awarded over £8,000 in compensation after manager suggested she was exaggerating symptoms to obtain a payout (Ms M James v Capital Care Services & Mr C Ledbury, ET)

In the case of Ms M James v Capital Care Services & Mr C Ledbury ET/3200600/2017 the Employment Tribunal held that an employee had been victimised when it was suggested that she was exaggerating her symptoms of illness in order to obtain a substantial payout.

The facts in Ms M James v Capital Care Services & Mr C Ledbury

Ms James commenced employment with Capital Care Services (“CCS”) from October 2016. In March 2017 she was signed off work sick and diagnosed with anxiety and depression by her GP; she also started seeing Mr Moody, a clinical counsellor, in March 2017 to help her manage her symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ms Moody did not return to work after being signed off sick.

Whilst she was signed off work sick Ms James submitted a grievance, and gave CCS permission to speak to Mr Moody in this context. On 7 June 2017 Mr Ali called Mr Moody to discuss Ms James’ grievance and, in the course of this telephone conversation, Mr Ali made a comment that Ms James might be faking her symptoms in order to receive a substantial pay-out.

Mr Moody informed Ms James of Mr Ali’s comment, and this caused Ms James to suffer a sustained panic attack which required several counselling sessions to address; she felt that Mr Ali had deeply insulted her and that he had suggested she was a liar.

Ms James brought a claim for victimisation in the Employment Tribunal. Ms James sought compensation for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, aggravated damages, and personal injury.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms James’ claim for victimisation, holding that Mr Ali’s comment on 8 June 2017 constituted a detriment (and that the cause of his conduct had been her grievance (which complained of discrimination)).

The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms James £7,500 in respect of injury to feelings (holding that it was a single incident that occurred but had led to significant impact on Ms James’ mental state); the total amount awarded came to £8,147.67 inclusive of interest.

The Tribunal declined to make an award for loss of earnings (as she had already been unable to work prior to Mr Ali’s comment being made); it also declined to make an award for personal injury (as it as unable to separate the claim for personal injury from her claim for injury to feelings). Finally, the Employment Tribunal also held that Mr Ali had not meant to be insulting or malicious to Ms James, and that an award of aggravated damages would not be appropriate.

Our solicitors’ view on Ms M James v Capital Care Services & Mr C Ledbury

Chris Hadrill, partner in the employment department at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers should take care to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and impartially when dealing with their grievances, and this is arguably particularly the case when the relevant employee has complained of discrimination.”

The judgment of the Employment Tribunal in Ms M James v Capital Care Services & Mr C Ledbury ET/3200600/2017 can be found here.