A former secretary who studied to obtain a law degree has won her battle against her former employer at the Employment Tribunal.
Alex Gibson, 36, suffered an accident whilst on holiday in Bolivia in 2008 which severely impaired her ability to move her right arm. Two years later she started working as a secretary at an office-based business in Bangor, Wales. Ms Gibson also suffers from dyslexia and claims that she was bullied and harassed by colleagues at this business – who cannot be named for legal reasons – because of her disabilities. She resigned from her job because of this bullying and subsequently pursued an employment tribunal claim against her former employers for constructive unfair dismissal and disability-related harassment. Whilst pursuing her claim she also continued to study for her law degree at Bangor University.
The Employment Tribunal heard during an eight-day hearing that her line manager at the firm had made hurtful and discriminatory comments about her arm. When she submitted a grievance relating to this behaviour she was told that she required “counselling” to come to terms with the impact of her disability and was also told by bosses to take minutes of the monthly meetings – a request which she was unable to perform properly because of her dyslexia. She said that this led to her being “ridiculed in front of all her colleagues” and that the stress of this caused her to suffer anxiety problems, caused her to throw up and meant that her hair fell out.
The Employment Tribunal has apparently ruled in Ms Gibson’s favour in her claims and she has been awarded a four-figure sum which she intends to appeal.
Ms Gibson stated after the judgment that “I was distraught and couldn’t believe the way I’d been treated, so was determined that I would defend myself and get justice. I got my inspiration from the Erin Brockovich film. She won against all the odds and I was determined to do the same. I’m just happy I stood up to the bullies and I won.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented: “Businesses should be careful that they should account for their employees’ disabilities and make reasonable adjustments if a workplace practice disadvantages the employee because of their disability. They should also train their employees in their equality policy and deal with any grievances relating to potential discrimination efficiently and quickly.”