An Employment Tribunal found that Miss C Robinson had been unfairly dismissed for reporting colleagues who mocked disabilities.
Miss Robinson worked for Mind Monmouthshire and witnessed colleagues imitating people with physical disabilities and subsequently reported it to her manager. Her manager called both Miss Robinson and her colleague to a meeting to discuss the matter, where the colleague explained it was harmless banter. Miss Robinson was asked if she wanted to make a formal complaint but chose not to. She felt that the onus was being put back on her to complain when it should not have been.
Around a month later Miss Robinson noticed how the team environment was quieter and reported that she felt the issue had not been acknowledged. She developed symptoms of dissociation and suicidal thoughts and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She was referred to Occupational Health who recommended a move to an alternative role, as she reported feeling ostracised by her colleagues as a result in reporting the incident and had been “sent to Coventry”. This recommendation was not implemented.
She attended a capability meeting and continued to report the environment affecting her wellbeing and the incident resulted in her being isolated. She then went on to raise a formal grievance which was not upheld and subsequently appealed before resigning. She raised a claim of unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and whistleblowing (public interest disclosure detriment and dismissal).
The tribunal found she had been automatically unfairly dismissed for making a public interest disclosure (whistleblowing) back at the time of the incident and that she had been victimised as a result and the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments. They concluded her treatment amounted to disability related harassment under the Equality Act.
This case is a reminder to employer’s around protected disclosures. It highlights that where there are discriminatory issues it is crucial that Employers act, and that the issues are treated seriously. In exceptional circumstances, you do not need a grievance to act, action should be a matter of course. This is also a significant reminder at this time, as Employer’s may see claims of health and safety concerns as part of returning to work during Covid-19.
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