Sacked Council Worker with PTSD from Grenfell Tower Fire Wins £4.6m

In a historic employment tribunal case, a former council worker has been awarded over £4.5m. This comes after the tribunal held her sacking caused by PTSD amounted to disability discrimination. Below, we explore what happened and the employment tribunal’s judgment.

If you have faced discrimination based on your disability, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists and will discuss your case before advising on your possible next steps.

You can begin your journey with us now by:

The Disability Discrimination Claim of the Council Worker

Council Worker Develops PTSD

In June 2017, the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in West London, taking 72 people’s lives. At that time, Rachael Wright-Turner worked as a humanitarian assistance lead at the Kensington and Chelsea Council. She supported individuals who were affected by the tragic event and consequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in August.

Later that month, Ms Wright-Turner suffered a panic attack due to her symptoms and reported this to her employer. Shortly after, she moved and joined the Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The council worker became the director of public service reform and earned £125,000 annually.

However, in May 2018, she was signed off work after an incident at a pub. She’d met up with superiors to discuss her well-being, but during discussions, she had flashbacks concerning the Grenfell Tower fire. She suffered a panic attack, began to hyperventilate and had to attend the hospital. Following the incident, senior council officers incorrectly claimed she’d been drunk.

Ms Wright-Turner is Dismissed

Subsequently, whilst on sick leave for PTSD, the council worker was sacked. She was provided with a letter informing her that her probationary period wouldn’t be extended. Yet, no formal meeting took place before this decision was made to discuss issues with Ms Wright-Turner’s employment. Furthermore, the dismissal letter didn’t outline any rights of appeal.

As such, the council worker took her employer to an employment tribunal. Among other things, she claimed disability discrimination and workplace harassment regarding her treatment and subsequent dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The tribunal highlighted the omission of Ms Wright-Turner’s PTSD in her dismissal letter. They saw this as a clear and deliberate decision in an attempt to avoid claims that her dismissal was linked to her disability. The tribunal saw through this and held her sickness absence was obviously a factor. As such, they stated she’d been subject to unfavourable treatment.

Then, the tribunal addressed shortfalls throughout the process. The council worker was never given the opportunity to discuss issues with her employment, informed of the risks of dismissal or provided with the chance to appeal

Here, the tribunal ruled that had she not been off, she could have addressed any performance-related concerns. Additionally, the employer would have needed to point out their problems and discuss solutions. Because of this, they held her unfavourable treatment was caused by her disability and concluded she’d faced disability discrimination.

Before making a decision, the tribunal heard how the events following dismissal had significantly damaged Ms Wright-Turner’s health. Her marriage had broken down, her house was undergoing repossession, and her children had lost their private school spots. The tribunal found that her employer’s unlawful conduct had caused this and that she would likely never work again.

Therefore, after a six-year legal battle, the tribunal awarded Ms Wright-Turner £4,580,577.39. This is reportedly the largest sum a public body has ever been ordered to pay.

Following the result, the council worker stated, “I don’t think they understood how closely I’d been working with the families in the aftermath of Grenfell”. She added, “They treated my PTSD as if I was acting like some sort of drama queen”. 

The Council apologised for Ms Wright-Turner’s ordeal but said it would appeal the decision. They believe her compensation claim was “vastly excessive, disputed and highly unprecedented”.

Claim Compensation with Redmans Solicitors

If you have experienced disability discrimination or harassment, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors can discuss your circumstances before uncovering your eligibility to claim compensation. Get in touch with us today by: