Employee receives £53,950 damages for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal18 June 2012
Mr Foster, who was supported in his claim by his trade union Unite and their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors, was sacked from his role at Leeds General Infirmary
A security worker has been awarded £53,950.62 in compensation after the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld his claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Senior security inspector Paul Foster, 61, from Morley was awarded the damages at Leeds Employment Tribunal after a legal battle with Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.
Mr Foster, who was supported in his claim by his trade union Unite and their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors, was sacked from his role at Leeds General Infirmary in February 2009 after suffering from stress for two years.
Mr Foster had worked in the Trust’s security department for many years but in October 2006 he went off sick with stress. He subsequently lodged a grievance of bullying and harassment against his manager, but this was dismissed in September 2007.
The denial of his grievance caused Mr Foster’s mental health to suffer. He did not believe his departmental line manager would ever treat him fairly.
In January 2008, Mr Foster, who had worked in the hospital for 40 years in various roles, agreed to return to work because he thought (wrongly, as it turned out) that he was to be redeployed to another department. He was placed on the Trust’s redeployment register for three months in June, but was unable to take up the only suitable job offered to him.
In September 2008, his manager left and the Trust decided he could return to the security department in October. He didn’t return because of the continuing concerns about the impact on his health. He was deemed unfit for work in November and dismissed the following February.
The Tribunal said the requirement for Mr Foster to work within the security department placed him at a substantial disadvantage as the cause of his disability (stress) was directly related to his work.
It ruled that the Trust should have made a reasonable adjustment by placing Mr Foster on the redeployment register in January 2008 when he was ready to return to work.
The Trust appealed, arguing that putting him onto the register earlier was not a “reasonable” adjustment because there was no evidence from which the Tribunal could conclude there was a “real prospect” that he would have been redeployed.
The EAT said that the Tribunal did not have to find that there was a “real prospect” of Mr Foster returning to work by placing him on the register earlier; just that there was “a prospect” of that happening.
As the Trust was a large employer with about 15,000 employees, 5,000 or so of whom worked at the location where Mr Foster was based, it was open to the Tribunal to conclude that there was a good prospect that it might have found a suitable post for him in the first six months of 2008.
Mr Foster said: “I felt thoroughly let down by my employer. I was willing to return to work but knew that I wouldn’t be able to cope working in the security department. My bosses never tried to find out about the causes of my illness or to make adaptations so that I could return to work. I feel like I was treated appallingly.”
Terry Cunliffe from Unite the Union said: “Mr Foster suffered disability discrimination at the hands of the Trust, which has caused him irrevocable damage, and it is only right that he has now been compensated for the harm he has suffered”.
Haylee Emmett from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Employers are required under the disability discrimination legislation to make reasonable adjustments under certain circumstances. This Trust failed Mr Foster by ignoring its duties to place him on the redeployment register as soon as it became clear that he was well enough to return to work.”