A social worker from County Durham who lost her dream job as a result of an unfair reference has secured a £36,000 payout from South Tyneside Council. Hazel Merriott-Brown, aged 35, lost her chance of a position as a Family Court Advisor as a result of her former supervisor’s reference. Following an out of court settlement, she secured the compensation with the support of her trade union UNISON and their personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors.

Hazel Merriott-Brown, who at the time worked in a children and families team, applied for a new job as a Family Court Advisor and was successful at interview. She was offered the job subject to attaining the second reference which had been requested from her employers.

Ms Merriott-Brown explains: “At the time of nominating a referee it was evident my line manager would soon herself be absent from work, so I named my former supervisor as the council referee. I was shocked to find that the reference was extremely negative and raised concerns with my performance since starting with South Tyneside council. These concerns had never been raised with me prior to reading them in the reference either formally or informally. As a result, the job offer was retracted leaving me feeling humiliated and angry.”

“I’m relieved that I’ve been exonerated but I now feel that my career has had to move in a completely new direction which will require considerable upskilling.”

Jim Musgrove of UNISON comments: “We’re very pleased with the settlement Hazel Merriott-Brown has secured from South Tyneside Council. The amount reflects the distress, suffering and extreme embarrassment which she was made to endure and which led to her taking over six months off sick with stress related anxiety.”

Representing Hazel Merriott-Brown, Mick Laffey from Thompsons Solicitors in South Shields, comments: “Stress cases like this are unfortunately very common and we’re pleased that in Hazel’s case, the council has been held to account. Her compensation reflects the difference in her pay whilst she was off sick with stress following this incident and an amount to compensate her for future losses based upon the fact that her new job would have paid better than her existing one.”

This story was also published by The Shields Gazette, Personneltoday.com and The Northern Echo.