Earlier this month, Employment Judge Lewis ruled that a barrister must pay her assistant over £155,000 in compensation as a result of causing her to suffer a mental and physical “collapse”.
The names of the parties were kept anonymous.
The assistant (A) was personally employed by a barrister (B) for 9 months as her legal assistant, personal assistant and general office manager. During her employment, A made B aware of some mental health issues she suffered with such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. She also informed B of a pre-existing disabilities she had, those being fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
Judge Lewis ruled that these conditions had a “substantial adverse effect” on A’s ability to carry out normal daily activities.
Some of the treatment A was subject to included being expected to be available “at the drop of a hat” and to work weekends, despite A specifying that she could not work weekends as she needed this time to rest as a result of her disability. B then threatened A that she would find another assistant who could work 7 days a week if she did not work weekends.
The Employment Tribunal ruled that this was unfavourable treatment and a failure to make reasonable adjustments under section 21 of the Equality Act 2010, given that it was a reasonable request to allow A not to work weekends due to her disability.
The treatment that A received from B exacerbated her symptoms, so much so that it caused a ‘”mental and physical collapse”, resulting in hospitalisation and leaving her completely unable to work in July 2022. The Judge found that A had experienced a reoccurrence of previous symptoms due to the discriminatory treatment she had received from B.
The Tribunal was satisfied that that the impact of the discriminatory treatment goes “beyond normal injury to feelings and resulted in personal injury”.
A made a claim for unfair dismissal, unlawful deduction of wages and disability discrimination. The claim for unfair dismissal was not upheld due to her lack of 2 years’ service however she was successful in her two other claims.
A was awarded £497.71 in relation to her unlawful deduction of wages and £155,413.46 in respect of disability discrimination, which included loss of earnings totalling £60,415.56, injury to feelings (including personal injury) in the sum of £90,000, plus £4,996.90 interest.
A large compensation award such as this should serve as a warning to employers to take mental health seriously and take proper account of pre-existing disabilities.