Hospital Secretary Wins Discrimination Claim

| General


In late November 2022, the Employment Tribunal handed down its decision in the case of a secretary who had been working in a hospital in connection with claims she had submitted for discrimination arising out of a disability, the failure in the employer’s duty to provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate the long-term medical condition and terminate her employment was found to be unlawful.    

What Happened In The Case?

The secretary commenced employment in June 2016 and carried out numerous tasks including greeting, booking persons visiting the hospital premises, sending out invoice documents, collecting payments and collaborating closely with workplace colleagues specialising in nursing. All her appraisals were positive. In December 2016 after approximately six months the employer seemed contented with her progress, she had collaborated effectively with her workmates and exceeded the position’s attributes.  

Turning Point?

However, matters worsened in September 2017 when the secretary took two days sickness absence connected with painful back problems. However, this did not appear to have a significant impact on her performance. In fact, when she underwent her Professional Development Review for 2017 to 2018 she reportedly exceeded expectations on four criteria and met expectations on six attributes for the role. The person providing feedback to the secretary independently praised her as she had demonstrated competencies in:

  • customer service
  • building excellent working relationships
  • carrying out numerous tasks simultaneously and
  • dedication, hard work and work ethic. 

Back With a Vengence…

In February 2018 the secretary’s employer sent her to hospital due to arm and back pain. The hospital then referred her to a medical professional with expertise in physiotherapy and the back. Owing to the persistent suffering with her back, the secretary was simultaneously referred to Occupational Health and it compiled a Report was sent to the Outpatient Department Supervisor. The Report appears to have diagnosed a ‘pinched nerve’ located in her neck.  

The Report did not stop there and suggested some reasonable adjustments which potentially could have been put in place to accommodate her disability, including: 

  • avoiding handling or lifting heavy objects       
  • regular movements in her standing and sitting position
  • having a reasonably flexible approach in their work-related activities owing to the pain being experienced whilst in a standing or sitting position for a long time and
  • recommending an Assessment be conducted on the secretaries computer screen in order to confirm if more changes are required to accommodate her medical condition.     

After the Report and to manage her condition the secretary was provided with a new chair. However, the employer appears not to have perused the Report and admitted that it should have been circulated to those occupying senior positions. The Claimant was later diagnosed with the deterioration of her back and another Occupational Health Report found that repeated head movements could increase her suffering. It suggested stopping this movement.  

What Did The Employment Tribunals say? 

The Tribunal found that the employer did not provide any adjustments to manage her back condition, reportedly detested breaks, failed to investigate grievances regarding cracking to a workplace floor, repair the damage and allegedly creating a hostile environment. Eventually the secretary felt she had no alternative but to tender her resignation.  

Way Forward?

Organisations employing staff with back trouble need to put reasonable adjustments in position such as: 

  • reading Occupational Health Reports 
  • absorb the recommendations pertaining to reasonable adjustments and
  • ensure the working environment is in a state of repair to accommodate the condition such as permitting staff to take breaks, appropriate seats and carrying out repair work on floors and other areas to mitigate the risks of exacerbation.  

ASSESSING FIRMS

#Allen&Overy #BakerMcKenzie #HerbertSmithFreehillsLLP #LewisSilkin #MishcondeReya #Simmons&Simmons #AddleshawGoddard #CliffordChanceLLP #CMS #DACBeachcroftLLP #EvershedsSutherlandLLP #LinklatersLLP #TaylorWessing #TraversSmith #Bird&Bird 

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Ms E Kalhor v The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth – Case number: 2202274/2020 – Employment Tribunal - Ms_E_Kalhor_-v-_The_Hospital_of_St_John_and_St_Elizabeth_-_Case_2202274_2020_-_judgment.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

[SOURCE 2] Ms E Kalhor v The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth – Case number: 2202274/2020V – Employment Tribunal - Ms_E_Kalhor_v__The_Hospital_of_St_Elizabeth.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk)

[SOURCE 3] Equality Act 2010

[SOURCE 4] Webber, Ashleigh – Hospital clerk wins £75k after occupational health reports ignored – Personnel Today – 19 December 2022 - Hospital clerk wins £75k after occupational health reports ignored (personneltoday.com)

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