This includes the RSPCA: one of its inspectors was awarded constructive dismissal damages after a saga that included attempting suicide with medication designed to put down animals.
Will Clayton, partner in employment law at the Manchester office of national law firm Hill Dickinson, recently brought a successful claim to tribunal on behalf of former RSPCA Inspector, Dimity Crowley.
Crowley reported sexual harassment and bullying by a chief inspector (who resigned prior to disciplinary proceedings), and medical experts said the experience triggered a “short-term adjustment disorder”.
In October 2004 she attempted suicide. She was successfully treated and her consultant occupational psychiatrist said she had emerged both mentally and emotionally stronger, suggesting in January 2006 that she could return to work. An occupational health expert for the RSPCA disputed Crowley's suitability as an inspector.
Following an appeal by Crowley, a second adviser accepted she could return to work, but insisted on changes to her contract and an agreement from Crowley (who was pregnant at the time) that her GP could report any signs of psychological illness directly to the RSPCA. Crowley resigned a short while later before her maternity leave was due to begin.Trial“I was devastated to lose my job as it was my true vocation,” said Crowley.
“The RSPCA"s treatment towards me has been grossly unfair, enormously upsetting and demoralising given that I was a dedicated Inspector. I received no compassion and little support. I am left exasperated by the way in which I was treated.” After a four-day trial in December 2007, the tribunal agreed that Crowley had been constructively dismissed, that the GP consent issue was an unjustified invasion of privacy and represented a fundamental breach of her employment contract and consequently awarded her £30,000 in compensation. “This case is a severe warning to any employer who adopts overly rigid or aggressive health management practices of employees looking to return to work after a period of long term ill-health,” Clayton commented. “I was left with no choice but to take the RSPCA to an employment tribunal.
This lengthy and daunting process was extremely stressful. “Due to a poorly managed HR department, the RSPCA wasted huge donations received from members of the public in order to fight this case.
I am obviously thrilled to have won, however it is a shame that it ended up in a costly four-day trial.” Employees are now much more aware of their rights and if employers want to avoid embarrassment and costly proceedings then they must ensure that their grounds for dismissal are fair and that their procedures are within the law.