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Half the population are bullied ... most only recognize it when they read this

Case law and out of court settlements
Workplace bullying, unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal,
breach of contract, harassment, stress and personal injury

On this page
Bullying, harassment, discrimination: unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal
Disability discrimination

Injury to feelings | Damages | Negligence | Whistleblowing
Stress | Personal injury
Job references | Trauma |Industrial injury
Time limits | PTSD and tribunal 12-week application limit
On another page
Bullying and the law | School bullying case law and settlements
UK Dignity at Work Bill |Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Negligence and Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Other web sites
UK Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Judgements
Industrial Relations Law Reports (UK)
Industrial Relations Law Reports (IRLR) are available in some specialist (eg university
or college or business) libraries which are often open to the public

Case Law and out-of-court settlements

Note: bullying is behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus (eg race or gender) it is expressed as (racial or sexual) harassment or discrimination. When the bullying lacks a focus, it comes out as bullying. Therefore, most cases under the Sex Discrimination, Race Relations and Disability Discrimination Acts are bullying cases.

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) provides online information on tribunal and court cases.

Further case law on constructive dismissal is contained in Tim Field's book Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying.

Employment tribunal judgements are summarised in the Industrial Relations Law Reports, know as IRLR, copies of which are often held in libraries. If your local library doesn't have a copy, try your nearest university/college library which is often open to the public for reference. Some large businesses have a library to which you may be granted access. Copies of the judgements themselves are obtainable from the Central Office of the Employment Tribunals, 100 Southgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2AQ or call the Employment Tribunals Helpline on Telephone 0345 959775.

If a respondent uses the argument "We didn't know anything about bullying" click here for a list of articles, books and publications on workplace bullying, injury to health and bullying-related suicide dating from 1992.

Bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation; unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal

July 1996: in Stone v. Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, the tribunal unanimously upheld Mrs Stone's claim of constructive dismissal after she was bullied out of her job by the new training manager Paul Jones. The tribunal deemed the dismissal "manifestly unfair" and the judgement ran to 17 pages. Shortly after the tribunal, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce was awarded Investors in People accreditation. A personal injury case has been settled out of court and Mrs Stone has been successful in her application for industrial injury benefit.

September 1996: in the case of Go Kidz Go v. Bourdouane [EAT 10 September 1996] the appeal tribunal affirmed that an employer has responsibility for preventing acts of sexual harassment by non-employees on employees in the course of their duties once such acts of harassment have been brought to the employer's attention. In the similar case of Burton and Rhule v. De Vere Hotels (EAT [1996] IRLR 596) the appeal tribunal affirmed the racial equivalent in that the employer has a duty to protect employees from racial harassment by non-employees whilst in the course of fulfilling their duties. There's guidance on dealing with bullying of employees by clients in Personnel Today, 23 April 2002.

In Phelan v. Pizza Express plc, the tribunal unanimously upheld the Applicant's claim of constructive dismissal for a lengthy period of bullying and harassment by her former manager at Pizza Express in Oxford.

March 1997: a 16-year-old girl in Wakefield was convicted of common assault for bullying even though she had not physically assaulted her 11-year-old victim. This case sets a precedent that assault can be psychological as well as physical.

March 1997: Herefordshire fire-fighter Tania Clayton accepted �200,000 plus �100,000 legal expenses in an out-of-court settlement with Hereford and Worcester County Council after five years of harassment, victimisation and bullying. An fire brigade internal investigation found "no evidence of bullying".

July 1997: Chinese-origin valuer David Chan won a record �172,000 against his former employers London Borough of Hackney after being bullied, humiliated and harassed by his managers.

In Halford v. United Kingdom (1997 IDS 593; ECHR), articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights are deemed to have been breached by unauthorised recording of office telephone conversations.

November 1997: DC Libby Ashurst was rumoured to be negotiating Britain's first �1,000,000 out-of-court settlement after a period of harassment whilst serving with North Yorks Police (reported on Teletext in November). In January 1998 another sexual harassment claim against North Yorks Police was under way.

November 1997: Donald D'Souza was awarded �375,000 for unfair dismissal and racial discrimination against former employers London Borough of Lambeth.

April 1998: In Kramer v. UNISON, Ms Kramer was employed as a Unison Regional Officer, South East Region from 1990-1997, when she resigned from her post. Ms Kramer claimed constructive dismissal, breach of contract and wrongful dismissal. Her case was based on the fact that she had suffered two years of unreasonable treatment from senior managers in the union including grievances which were never heard. The industrial tribunal found against Unison on all counts. The last straw was Unison's breach of its own procedure for dealing with bullying and harassment at work for employees. Compensation, with a confidentiality clause, was agreed. Ms Kramer was represented by the Transport and General Workers Union at the tribunal.

July 1998: Deputy head teacher Anthony Ratcliffe received �100,000 in an out-of-court settlement from Pembrokeshire County Council after he alleged that he was humiliated, excluded, embarrassed, and prevented from doing his job through bullying by the head teacher Joan Morris. For comment, or if you're a teacher being bullied, see the teachers page.

July 1998: In Dunlop v. NYNEX CableComms Ltd, Miss Dunlop alleged she was selected for redundancy by a female line manager who had been bullying her for the previous 18 months and who used the opportunity of company downsizing to get rid of her. Despite being debarred from talking about bullying, Miss Dunlop's claim of unfair dismissal was upheld after six days of tribunal spread over 18 months during which NYNEX was taken over by Cable & Wireless, whose lawyers continued to defend the case. Miss Dunlop was awarded maximum compensation.

September 1998: In Gilbert v. Midland Bank, an employment tribunal upheld employee Andrew Gilbert's claim of sex discrimination after his manager Kathryn Dowse, at 21 Britain's youngest female bank manager, dismissed him following a sequence of typical bullying tactics. These included humiliation (making him mop the floor), rudeness, patronising him, making complaints about his performance to superiors but not informing Mr Gilbert, perceiving him as a threat, singling him out and treating him differently from his three female colleagues, etc. "I can say quite emphatically we do not regard the bank's conduct as indicative of taking such steps as were reasonably practical to avoid discrimination", said the tribunal chairman.

September 1998: Former London Borough of Hackney chief personnel officer Samuel Yeboah was awarded �350,000 compensation after a marathon 104-day trial. It found that former Director of Housing Bernard Croftin discriminated against African employees and bullied and harassed Mr Yeboah by making false allegations of fraud against him.

March 1999: From Australia, the judgement in Blenner-Hasset v. Murray Goulburn Co-operative Ltd and others is at http://countycourt.vic.gov.au/judgments/blenner.htm . The case involves workplace intimidation and bastardization.

June 1999: in Turner v. Bedfordshire County Council, teacher Fiona Turner won her case of constructive dismissal after a long period of bullying. Click here for details of the case.

1999: in McLaughlin v. London Borough of Southwark, former assistant director of Southwark council Esther McLaughlin was awarded �234,000 by an employment tribunal which condemned Southwark council for its handling of the case which involved unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. Part of the award comprised aggravated damages for injured feelings and continued discrimination after she was dismissed.

1999: Stubbs v. Lincolnshire Police, former Detective Constable Deborah Stubbs was awarded �184,000 for 16 months of vicious sexual harassment at the hands of a fellow officer Detective Sergeant Walker after a four-year legal battle. Former Chief Constable Peter Bensley and his deputy were retired in 1998 following another sex discrimination case and a report critical of the force's "management style and standards".

26 February 2000: in Harling v. C L Plastics, machine operator Lee Harling was awarded a record �28,000 by an employment tribunal in Leeds this week for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. The tribunal heard how fellow employees at CL Plastics in Birkenshaw verbally and physically abused Mr Harling when they discovered he was dyslexic. Mr Harling described the damage to his family and psychiatric injury resulting from 18 months of abuse which the employer knew about but chose to ignore. On several occasions Mr Harling was assaulted and wrapped in plastic, almost suffocating him.

March 2000: in Harvest Press Ltd v. McCaffrey, Mr McCaffrey had walked out of the workplace after harassment by a fellow worker. He reported the harassment and was told to come back to the workplace; McCaffrey said he would only return if the employer would take action against the harassment and thus guarantee his safety. The employer took the harasser's version of events and sacked McCaffrey for refusing to return to work. The EAT judged that McCaffrey had been unfairly dismissed. The court decided that section 100(1)(d) of the Employment Rights Act (1996) applied and that the "circumstances of danger" applied to any danger, including that of harassment by a fellow worker, not just physical dangers relating to work premises.

March 2000: the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that progressive discipline, if unjustified, can be viewed as constructive dismissal. "Employers should make sure they have all their facts in place before gradually disciplining employees if they want to avoid a constructive dismissal suit" says Toronto lawyer Howard Levitt, a labour and employment lawyer with Lang Michener. The ruling means employers should investigate performance problems thoroughly before implementing a series of disciplinary actions. And they should give employees a chance to respond before proceeding further. "When a supervisor wants to discipline an employee, consider first whether that person has a personality conflict or an axe to grind before you allow them to go down that road. Determine whether the problem is legitimate" Levitt says. Levitt says the ruling in Shah v. Xerox Canada Ltd places the onus squarely on employers to justify their actions against employees. In the ruling, which awarded Viren Shah damages equivalent to 12 months' notice, the court said the employer's treatment of Shah changed the essential terms of the employment contract. Shah had worked at Xerox for more than 12 years. Levitt says this case is important because it interprets employment law in a new way by viewing unwarranted and unjustified treatment as constructive dismissal or as a change to the essential terms of a contract. The case focused not on specific terms, but on employer conduct. The court said the working environment was made intolerable and that constituted constructive dismissal. Levitt says the ruling paves the way for major shifts in the law.

3 May 2000: in Hetherington v. Darlington Borough Council, deputy head Geoff Hetherington has won a unanimous verdict that he was unfairly dismissed. Thornaby Employment Tribunal heard former deputy head teacher Mr Hetherington describe how the arrival in 1995 of new head teacher Mrs Gill Wray led to a period of constant criticism, excessive monitoring and a tirade of unsubstantiated allegations of underperformance which brought to an unexpected end a successful 25-year career. Despite the unanimous verdict, the tribunal failed to demand substantive and quantifiable evidence from respondent head teacher Mrs Gill Wray for her allegations of underperformance. The LEA and head teacher's union NAHT backed Mrs Wray but also failed to substantiate any of Mrs Wray's specious claims.
Mr Hetherington's wife Gill Hetherington has become a campaigner on bullying of teachers having experienced first hand the damage such behaviour causes to the family.

11 May 2000: in A v. Shropshire County Council a 45-year-old Shropshire teacher has accepted �300,000 out-of-court settlement for injury to health caused by the bullying behaviour of a female head teacher. The teacher, who specialised in working with emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children, experienced a stress breakdown following a year-long series of confrontations with the headmistress whose methods he questioned. The behaviour of the headmistress, which Shropshire County Council admits as "management difficulties", resulted in the destruction of a popular and successful employee previously tipped as a headmaster but who is now described as a "recluse".
The National Union of Teachers (NUT), who supported the teacher in bringing his case, said his problems began in January 1995 when a new head was appointed. It stated: "Previously the school had run on team lines but the new head would not listen to suggestions from experienced staff. She failed to demonstrate consistency in disciplinary policies, ignored the concerns of staff and rejected criticism from experienced teachers."

14 June 2000: in Pepper v. Reading Borough Council (formerly Berkshire County Council), false allegations resulted in the unfair sacking of former deputy head teacher Cherryll Pepper. Mrs Pepper found herself suspended from work in July 1996 when the school's new head teacher Lyn Hurst wrongly accused her of gross misconduct. The consequent stress of high workloads and malicious allegations led to a near breakdown and the loss of her career. An employment tribunal in 1998 concluded it was "a blatant case of unfair dismissal against an applicant who was blameless".

23 June 2000: in Kapadia v. London Borough of Lambeth, former senior accountant Pravin Kapadia has won his appeal to proceed with a claim under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). His employer claimed that Kapadia did not qualify for disabled status. Mental health charity Mind's solicitor Simon Foster commented that "...if an employee has a long-lasting condition, the fact that he appears to be functioning normally doesn't mean he hasn't got a disability".

6 June 2000: former Metropolitan Police officer Sarah Locker has accepted an out-of-court settlement �215,000 plus a pension which in time could total around �1 million for sexual and racial harassment. There have been several similar settlements in recent years: in 1999 Thames Valley Police PC Kay Kellaway accepted a �150,000 settlement. In 1998 fellow Thames Valley Police detective Dee Mazurkiewicz reached an undisclosed settlement after she endured more than four years of bullying and harassment by male colleagues and then suffered further victimisation after she attempted to resolve her complaint through internal procedure. The tribunal panel ruled unanimously in her favour and there were no grounds for appeal.

11 August 2000: the case of Little v. Oxford College of Further Education has been settled out-of court for an undisclosed sum. Ms Little, a lecturer in tourism in the Department of Tourism and Leisure at Oxford College of Further Education, suffered a back injury during a trip abroad with students in 1996 after which she alleges she was repeatedly harassed and discriminated against by her line manager, lecturer Ian Buller, which culminated in an employment tribunal for disability discrimination, sexual harassment and discrimination, unfair dismissal, breach of contract, breach of duty of care, and personal injury. The College was represented by vice-principal and acting head of human resources John Kelly.

2 December 2000: former Metropolitan Police Domestic Violence Unit officer Catherine Moore has been awarded �150,000 compensation after being bullied out of her job because she asked to change shifts in order to share child care with her police-officer husband. Croydon Employment Tribunal found that on return from maternity leave, Mrs Moore became "a scapegoat for the section's ills, had her sickness record exaggerated, and became the subject of unduly punitive attitudes". Mrs Moore took medical retirement in 1998 on the grounds of stress.

8 December 2000: Metropolitan Police Officer Gurpal Virdi has won record damages of �150,000 after he was cleared of charges of sending racist hate mail to himself and other ethnic minority officers. An employment tribunal in August 2000 found that Mr Virdi had been discriminated against by the investigating officers.

17 January 2001: Justin Idehen, 38, Stockport Council's most senior black officer, has accepted a �160,000 payout after claiming racial harassment in Stockport town hall where he was employed for 15 years. He refused to sign a gagging order which his former employer tried to impose on him. Mr Idehen, who was in charge of 120 staff with an annual budget of �15 million, talked of the subtle forms of racism by senior management designed, he believes, to frustrate him in his work. "The more destructive form of racism is the subtle kind when you are patronised when your bosses say they are doing something for your sake. And when you complain about it, you are further patronised. It's been a very stressful experience." There was also some not-so-subtle racism, such as the intimidation when management tried to move him into another job and force him to accept a lower salary. He was backed by the Commission for Racial Equality and his union, Unison.

5 March 2001: GMTV wardrobe assistant Olivia Nurrish has been awarded �15,200 for constructive dismissal following a spate of false allegations by her supervisor, Hilary Simon. Ms Simon regularly criticised Ms Nurrish's performance, constantly undermined her position, and speciously claimed that presenters Eamonn Holmes and Fiona Phillips were dissatisfied with her performance. During meetings to resolve the dispute, Hilary Simon lost her temper and reduced Ms Nurrish to tears. The appointed mediator made matters worse. Ms Nurrish was supported in her case by presenters Lorraine Kelly, Eamonn Holmes and John Stapleton who provided excellent references on her behalf including "extremely good at her job" and "a delightful, calm, soothing personality". The presenters also informed Rhian Jones, head of GMTV human resources, of their unease with the claims being made, but no appropriate action was taken. GMTV offered Ms Nurrish �500 in compensation but the tribunal awarded her �15,200 in unanimous recognition that she had been unfairly treated whilst GMTV human resources had neither grasped nor dealt with the issue.

6 March 2001: former PC Angela Vento was awarded �257,844 compensation after she endured years of bullying and harassment by senior officers in West Yorkshire Police. Ms Vento, who won an employment tribunal for sexual harassment and discrimination in 1999, claimed she was "grilled, roasted and reduced to tears" by senior officers at Bradford central police station. Eventually she was dismissed in December 1997 following allegations of "poor performance and a lack of honesty". As with most cases of bullying, Ms Vento's confidence was so undermined that she could not cope with the simplest of tasks. Compensation was awarded for injuries to feelings, aggravated damages and the psychological damage she had suffered at the hands of superiors. She also received an apology from Phillip Brear, Deputy Chief Constable. The case was appealed and the calculation of �165,829 for loss of future earnings was upheld but not the EAT's award of �25,000 for injury to feelings. Ms Vento was awarded �18,000 plus a further �5000 for aggravated damages.

2001: in Rorrison v. West Lothian College and Lothian Regional Council the Scottish Court of Session established two key principles: that a) a claimant's injury must constitute a clinically diagnosed psychiatric illness therefore catch-all conditions such as "stress", "anxiety" and "depression" will not suffice, and b) an employer will only owe a duty of care to an employee if it is reasonable forseeable (to an ordinary bystander) that a "psychiatric disorder" will arise. Ms Rorrison's claim failed even though she was the target of a concerted bullying campaign.

March 2002: in Farnsworth v. Derbyshire County Council an employment tribunal found unanimously that Ms Farnsworth was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed from her employment as the manager of the llkeston Adult Education Centre. Ms Farnsworth was maliciously bullied over a two year period during which personnel officers refused to take any action despite witnessing the bullying which included false allegations, fabricated evidence and the malicious use of disciplinary proceedings. A senior manager appointed to investigate was labelled "fundamentally dishonest" by the tribunal. Derbyshire County Council offered settlement of �86,000 including costs just before the Tribunal Remedies.

May 2002: in Dunnachie v. Kingston-upon-Hull City Council, a remedy hearing for Health and Safety / Environmental Health Officer Chris Dunnachie awarded him �123,000 (reduced to the maximum allowable �51,000) for constructive unfair dismissal for having been bullied out of his job. The extended reasons described the primary bully as "motivated by spite" and the more senior managers as "vindictive" and/or "refusing or failing to recognise that Mr Dunnachie was the target of bullying". Unison refused to support the case quoting their solicitors Thompsons who claimed there was a less than 50% chance of success. The Yorkshire Regional Employment Tribunal Chairman stated there was the clearest evidence of a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. [More]
February 2004: in Dunnachie v. Kingston upon Hull City Council the Court of Appeal upheld Chris Dunnachie's award for injury to feelings. [Full verdict | BBC News Online]
July 2004: House of Lords rules that damages for injury to feelings is not recoverable at employment tribunal. [Full verdict]

August 2002: in Neocleous v. USDAW the unanimous decision of the Tribunal is that the Applicant was unfairly dismissed and denied her statutory right to be accompanied at grievance and disciplinary hearings. The claim of sex discrimination was rejected on the basis that "a man in the same position as the Applicant would have been treated equally as badly".

4 October 2002: Swansea teacher Alan Powis, 53, agreed to an out of court settlement of �230,000 from Neath Port Talbot Council. Mr Powis, of Llansamlet, was sacked in 1997 on grounds of gross misconduct, after five years of bullying by Sheena Ball, the former head of Coedffranc Junior School in Skewen, Neath Port Talbot, South Wales. [More]

December 2002: in Cantor Fitzgerald v. Bird [2002 IRLR 867; HC] the High Court found in favour of two employees which the employer tried to force into accepting new contracts with adverse conditions using a combination of coercion, threats and bullying.

13 December 2002: an employment tribunal in Bristol unanimously rejected an action for breach of contract against a large recruitment agency in Swindon. The claim arose following the suspension of a manager, who was suspected of bullying members of staff. The managers conduct was investigated discreetly, appropriately and thoroughly and in accordance with ACAS guidelines but she refused to cooperate with the investigation and resigned (in anger) and then lodged a tribunal claim. The Tribunal found that the manager had wasted the Court's time and she was ordered to make a contribution towards the employers legal costs. The Chairman of the Tribunal said that employers cannot afford to ignore bullying and harassment and the agency was right to investigate matters. The defence was handled by a Bristol firm of Solicitors.

28 September 2004: in a case of bullying and disability discrimination brought against Bishop Grosseteste College and its principal Mrs Eileen Baker OBE, the Lincoln College agreed to pay �15,000disability discrimination compensation and apologise toemployee and disability co-ordinator Mrs Sharifa Farley. [More]

March 2005: in Majrowski -v- Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the Protection from Harassment Act applies to workplace bullying and that an employer will be vicariously liable for harassment committed by an employee (subject to normal vicarious liability rules). [More]

Disability discrimination

March 2000: financial assessment officer Simon Ninsiima was awarded �81,550 when he brought a claim under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). His former employers, Waltham Forest Council, failed to adapt his workplace to meet his needs. Mr Ninsiima, who is wheelchair bound, asked Waltham Forest Council to make adjustments for several years but his employer's constant refusal and inaction led to long periods off work. He eventually resigned in March 1998.

August 2000: former teacher Liz Abbott has been paid �60,000 plus �20,000 costs in her case against Waltham Forest Education Authority. In 1996 Ms Abbott was forced to resign from St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Chingford, North London, because of stress. Her classroom assistant's hours had been reduced by a third and, when the assistant resigned, the local education authority failed to find a replacement. Ms Abbott, who is registered blind, had, according to the tribunal, "become a burden [to her employers] and one they no longer wished to bear". A teacher for 25 years, Ms Abbott brought the case under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) with the help of her union, The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).

August 2000: Little v. Oxford College of Further Education, see above.

August 2004: Wilson v. Southern Counties Fuels Ltd looks at the question of whether someone suffering depression (possibly caused by stress) qualifies as "disabled".

Injury to feelings

22 March 2001: in Johnson v. Unisys the Law Lords have decreed that they see "no reason why, in an appropriate case, it [the amount of compensation] should not include compensation for distress, humiliation, damage to their reputation in the community or to family life". This is the first time a judgement has indicated that unfair dismissal claimants might be compensated at tribunal for injury to feelings. At present there is a £51,700 ceiling on awards for unfair dismissal which cannot be breached, and the average award of a couple of thousand pounds is only for loss of earnings until the applicant finds, or the tribunal believes s/he should have found, a new job. This is in sharp contrast to harassment and discrimination claims on which compensation is theoretically unlimited.
Richard Lister, of Lewis Silkin, comments that if "someone has been frog-marched out of the office in front of their colleagues they could argue that this damaged their reputation and seek appropriate compensation. If someone had been through a dismissal that was so traumatic that it brought on a stress-related illness and they had medical evidence, they could get a very significant award."

January 2004: in Virgo Fidelis Senior School v. Kevin Boyle the EAT has ruled that the guidelines for assessing compensation in sex and race discrimination cases also apply to assessment of compensation in cases of whistleblowing. [Full verdict]

10 February 2004: in Dunnachie v. Kingston upon Hull City Council the Court of Appeal upheld Chris Dunnachie's award for injury to feelings. [Full verdict]

Damages

July 2002: in Zaiwalla & Co v. Walia an Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that employees can recover aggravated damages in cases of discrimination where an employer behaves unreasonably when conducting its defence. However the Tribunal warned that the ruling would not give as a matter of routine "the green light to claims for aggravated damages in respect of alleged misconduct in the defence of proceedings". The Tribunal also noted ruefully that "It saddens us that this exceptional case concerned the behaviour of a firm of solicitors." [Judgement]

Negligence

2001: in Lister and others v. Hesley Hall [2001 IRLR 472; HL] the House of Lords ruled that an employer may be vicariously liable for acts by its employees, including criminal acts, where the employer gave an opportunity for the employee to commit those acts. The case extended the traditional test for vicarious liability considerably, increasing employers' potential financial exposure.

27 July 2000: in a landmark judgement, five UK law lords have unanimously granted former Metropolitan Police constable Eileen Waters the right to sue her former employers for negligence. Ms Waters says that after reporting a fellow officer for sexual harassment and rape she was subjected to four years of bullying and victimisation which resulted in psychiatric injury and a lost career. A previous attempt to sue the Metropolitan Police commissioner for negligence for failing to prevent victimisation was dismissed. The judgement opens the way for any employee (or, in this case, an office holder) who suffers a psychiatric injury as a result of bullying, harassment and victimisation to sue their employer for negligence if, having been brought to the their attention, the employer takes no action against the perpetrators. Seetranscript of judgement.

Whistleblowing

25 April 2001: in the case of Mr A v. X Ltd a tribunal awarded Mr A £140,000 after he was subjected to bullying, harassment and victimisation using threats and false charges of gross misconduct after having reported a senior manager for serious sexual offences including indecent assault and gross indecency. The tribunal described the personnel officer as "completely lacking in credibility" and "mendacious", whilst X Ltd and its chief executive were savaged for "setting out to mislead" and for being "at pains to restrict any information which might be relevant coming to the attention of the tribunal." Tribunal secrecy rules prevented the identification of X Ltd, a move criticised by Public Concern at Work, and by Private Eye who said that "United Co-ops, formerly United Norwest Cooperatives, is one of the biggest retailers in Britain with an annual turnover of £800 million. The firm's approach to sexual harassment by its senior staff is not, however, exemplary".

23 June 2000: in Fernandes v. Netcom, former finance officer Antonio Fernandes successfully used the Public Interest Disclosure Act when he was unfairly dismissed for faxing details of irregular expense claims by his manager to the telecoms company's parent office in the USA.

25 April 2001: in Mr A v. X Limited, an employment has awarded £140,000 to a branch manager who was victimised after blowing the whistle on a senior executive for sexual assault and gross indecency. Whilst Mr A and another victim were disciplined for reporting the offences, the alleged abuser initially took sick leave before being allowed to resign on three months' notice. The identity of this large employer, whose obstructive and misleading conduct was castigated by the tribunal, has been removed from the public record under tribunal secrecy rules. As a result of this case, Public Concern at Work has called for an urgent overhaul of rules concerning tribunal secrecy.

Personal injury

Britain's first personal injury case for the psychiatric injury caused by bullying, Walford v. Ford Motor Company, was settled out of court in February 1998. Settlement was conditional on a gagging clause.

Some other recent personal injury cases you might like to contemplate...

26 October 1998: former crime squad detective Laura Dyer, 40, received £175,792 compensation after she told the High Court that being constantly wired up with a radio receiver had led to her suffering tinnitus (ringing in the ear). This follows the case earlier this month where PC Fiona Peterson was seeking substantial compensation for injuries caused by wearing body armour..

July 1999: in Sheriff v. Klyne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Employment Tribunal has the power to make awards for personal injuries resulting from harassment and discrimination.

Stress

In July 1996 John Walker was awarded £175,000 against Northumberland County Council for having suffered two stress breakdowns resulting from work overload. Mr Walker was a social worker dealing with child abuse. The employer had been informed of the circumstances of the first stress breakdown and on Mr Walker's return to work took no action to reduce his workload. The award was made on the basis of the second stress breakdown.

March 1998: North East Essex Mental Health NHS Trust paid £25,000 in an out-of-court settlement to the widow of Richard Pocock who took his own life in 1995. His suicide, which followed the announcement of the closure of the hospital where he had worked for two decades was described by Jeffrey Burke QC as being "directly attributable to the stress he had been under at work" and that "it was quite clear that he was going to lose his job".

5 July 1999: Lancaster v. Birmingham City Council has ramifications for every stressed employee - and we know that bullying is a major cause of stress, and perhaps the major cause - former housing office Beverley Lancaster was awarded £67,000 in a personal injury case where her employer, for the first time in British legal history, we think, accepted liability. Mrs Lancaster was forced to change job from senior draughtsperson to housing officer and was promised training which never materialized. She was supported by her union Unison.

8 July 1999: in Noonan v. Liverpool City Council, Cath Noonan accepted an £84,000 out-of-court settlement from her former employers Liverpool City Council. Mrs Noonan was subjected to isolation (being sent to Coventry for 9 months), excessive supervision, being monitored at home whilst on sick leave, and specious criticisms about alleged lack of time-keeping. The former home help supervisor gained the impression that her managed was fuelled by jealousy and envy. In the Daily Mail, 8 July 1999, Ms Noonan is quoted as saying that "she [the alleged bully] did it in such a way that you couldn't actually put a finger on it. I would say that her barbs hit the target every time but she never left a trace." Mrs Noonan went on sick leave in 1995 and took ill-health retirement in 1997. She was supported by her union Unison.

30 September 1999: in Benson v. Wirral Metropolitan Borough, ex-teacher Muriel Benson received a £47,000 out-of-court settlement after she was forced into ill-health retirement through excessive workload which she first reported to her employer in 1988. See BBC News Online at www.bbc.co.uk/news and use the BBC's search facility at the bottom of the page with the search term "Muriel Benson".

10 January 2000: former council warden Randy Ingram accepted a record £203,432 out-of-court settlement for stress caused by physical and verbal violence at the gypsy site where he was warden. Mr Ingram alleges his employer, Hereford and Worcester County Council, failed to take action to protect him.

11 January 2000: former senior housing benefits officer Roderick McLeod accepted £200,000 in an out-of-court settlement for psychiatric injury culminating in a stress breakdown caused, he alleged, by bullying, harassment and abuse of his line manager Susan Claydon at Test Valley Borough Council in Andover, Hampshire, England.

21 February 2000: former fire-fighter John Richards from Neath, Glamorgan, South Wales, accepted record six-figure damages believed to be in excess of £150K for psychiatric injury caused by bullying and victimisation by fellow fire-fighters at West Glamorgan Fire Service. The focus of the victimisation appeared to be one senior officer who was described by the occupational health doctor as "a fascist bastard" and by a counsellor as "a pig" (Daily Mail, 22 Feb 2000, p23).

22 February 2000: a former Post Office manager has been awarded £175,000 for stress caused by work overload. The man, from Scunthorpe, who wishes to remain anonymous, began to suffer reactive depression following a business review in 1992 after which workloads and responsibility increased dramatically.

23 June 2000: in the New Zealand case of Gilbert v. The Department of Corrections, former probation officer Christopher Gilbert has been awarded around NZ$1 million damages for injury to health caused by work overload which he reported but which his employer did nothing to reduce. Gilbert claimed that by failing to provide him with a safe workplace and by requiring him to endure excessive workloads without adequate or effective management, his employer committed a breach of contract. The judge agreed and awarded Mr Gilbert 14 years' salary at about $40,000 a year, $75,000 in damages for humiliation and distress, $50,000 in punitive damages, $50,000 for loss of employability, plus medical expenses and legal costs.

October 2000: in Gogay v. Hertfordshire County Council [2000 IRLR 703, CoA], social worker Gogay was the target of an allegation of abuse. Her employer suspended her when they could have transferred her whilst an investigation was carried out. The investigation found no case to answer and Gogay was reinstated. By this time she was suffering depression and unable to work. The Court of Appeal awarded her £13,424 for breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence.

In Tiquin v. Abbey National [ET/2400947/98], Ms Tiquin had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and was denied a less stressful role which included being forbidden access to a toilet between breaks. The tribunal upheld her claim of disability discrimination and awarded £12,100 plus £2,500 injury to feelings.

3 December 2000: former Metropolitan Police Constable Eric Stunt has been awarded £100,000 damages after he was psychologically injured by an investigation of a complaint made against him. In a landmark decision, a High Court judge ruled that PC Stunt was eligible for an injury award as the injury was as a result of performing his duties. The Metropolitan Police have lodged an appeal. Police forces, ambulance and fire service employees could now sue for millions of pounds in damages as could any public sector employee who is suffering stress due to their job.

4 December 2000: in Howell v. Newport County Borough Council (formerly Gwent County Council), former teacher Janice Howell received £254,362 compensation for a career destroyed by stress. Mrs Howell, a teacher of 24 years experience, was teaching at Maindee Junior School in Newport, South Wales. Her class of 28 pupils contained 11 special needs pupils including one extremely disturbed pupil who had been expelled from two previous schools. Despite Mrs Howell's request for classroom support, none was forthcoming, indeed a nursery nurse was removed. Newport County Borough Council (formerly Gwent County Council) admitted liability in January 2000. A special task force subsequently found severe management failings at the school and the Head and Deputy were removed. See NASUWT press release for more information.

9 March 2001: former maths department head Alan Barber has been awarded £100,000 damages for stress suffered whilst at East Bridgewater School in Somerset. The court heard how Mr Barber suffered depression following "brusque, autocratic and bullying" behaviour of head teacher Margaret Hayward. A restructuring exercise meant that Mr Barber's workload increased but resources were withdrawn. Despite being alerted, the school responded unsympathetically and did nothing to alleviate the situation. Somerset County Council appealed but the appeal was rejected by the House of Lords in March 2004.

4 May 2001: the case of Long v Mercury Mobile Communications Services establishes a precedent of one stress breakdown rather than the two stress breakdowns required by the judgment in Walker v. Northumberland County Council. Jeffery Long was a successful telephone procurement manager with no previous history of psychiatric injury. He was asked to provide a confidential report which implicated his line manager, Simon Stone, in mismanagement. The report was disclosed to his line manager who then immediately carried out a "vendetta" against Mr Long with the probable intent of driving him out of the company. This vendetta involved wrongfully blaming him for the mismanagement, taking important procurement contracts from him, making unfounded allegations against him of abusing customers and breach of confidence resulting in suspension, and placing orders without authority. The Claimant complained to the Personnel Manager about this conduct but not about the effect it was having upon him. The Personnel Manager in turn complained to the Managing Director who did nothing because he favoured Stone. Eventually, the Claimant was separated from Stone by being demoted. Mr Long suffered an adjustment reaction. The Defendants had to admit liability on the third day of the trial and fought damages. The Judge expressed his agreement with the Defendant's admission and went on to award £327,000.00 damages with indemnity costs. For full press release click here.

7 November 2001: former secretary Joy Pugh was awarded £90,000 damages at Swansea County Court for injury to health resulting from bullying and harassment by her boss, the Unison Welsh regional secretary Derek Gregory. Over a six-year period Ms Pugh endured persistent rudeness, shouting, exaggeration of alleged faults, and attempts to engineer mistakes. Mr Gregory's assistant Beverley Cole was also accused of bullying. The repeated bullying and harassment resulted in Ms Pugh suffering panic attacks, depression, sleepless nights, loss of libido and loss of self-confidence. [Full story]

19 November 2001: a tribunal in Taunton, Somerset, England, has ruled that working mothers have the legal right to refuse to work inconvenient shifts and that to deny this right is a breach of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. Single parent and former police constable Michelle Chew from Taunton won an appeal against Avon and Somerset Police after they refused her request to work the same days each week so that her children could attend nursery. [Full story]

Spring 2002: in Asda Stores v. Thompson (2002 IRLR 245; EAT) the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that an employee is entitled to see witness statements, subject in appropriate cases to the deletion of identifying material. However, the investigating manager could be challenged on the nature and extent of the investigation.

Spring 2002: in Hatton, Barber et al the Court of Appeal has overturned awards for stress. This judgement says that if an employer operates an unsafe psychological working environment, it is the responsibility of the employee to alert the employer, and if the employer has provided an opportunity for counselling they are unlikely to be held liable. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe working environment so if a piece of machinery is dangerous it is the employer's responsibility to make it safe. This judgement is therefore the psychological equivalent to employees having the responsibility to alert the employer to unsafe machinery, and if the employer has provided a first aid kit then the employer shall not be liable for accidents caused by unsafe machinery. [Full judgement | Comment by Cloisters barrister Andrew Buchan | HSE Working on stress, Myths and facts, Point 5]
Update March 2004: the employers' appeal in the case of Barber was rejected by the House of Lords in March 2004.

Post Office pays out for stress: the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the Post Office must pay a substantial five-figure sum in compensation to a Communication Workers Union member who suffered years of stress-related illness caused by an ever-increasing workload. Maurice Young, 55, began working for the Post Office in 1978 as a transport technician and was promoted regularly, becoming a workshop manager in 1993, leading to more work and more responsibility and pressure. The court found that despite telling his superiors repeatedly he was not coping with the pressure nothing was done. Kerry Hadley, Mr Young's solicitor at the law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "One of the reasons the court found in Mr Young's favour was the fact that his many calls for help at work were ignored by his immediate boss and by people further up the management ladder at the Post Office."

October 2002: in Harlow v General HealthCare Group plc the employer failed to respond to a formal grievance, on the grounds the employee was off sick and his wife had indicated that further communications from the employer were causing further stress. The employee argued this was a fundamental breach of contract, as had been found in Goold (Pearmark) Ltd v McConnel, entitling him to resign and claim constructive dismissal. The EAT upheld the employment tribunal's decision to reject this argument, stating that it was not unreasonable for an employer to wait until an employee returns to work from stress-related absence before dealing with a grievance. [More]

Further case law on stress is contained in Earnshaw & Cooper's book Stress and employer liability (details on recommended reading page)

Job references

In Spring v. Corinium and Guardian Assurance (1994) the House of Lords decided that employers are under a duty to take reasonable care in the preparation of a reference and would be liable in negligence if it was inaccurate and the employee suffered damage. Damages were estimated at £70,000. [Full judgement]

In Coote v. Granada Hospitality Ltd, Ms Coote claimed that having pursued and won a sex discrimination case, her former employer subsequently refused to provide an employment agency with a reference a year later when she sought to return to the workplace following a maternity break. After a tribunal dismissed the case, an appeal tribunal asked the European Court of Justice if the 1976 European equal treatment directive applied to redress for failure to provide a reference following the employees pursuit of equal treatment rights. The Court ruled that the UK Government is obliged to provide a means of redress for any employee subsequently denied a reference in sex discrimination cases. The case was settled in January 2000 when an employment tribunal awarded Ms Coote £200,000.

See also the US cases of Zimmerman v. Direct Federal Credit Union and Johnson v. Perot Systems Europe and UBS

9 May 2001: former insurance sales manager Michael Cox is suing Sun Alliance for a reference which implied he was sacked for taking bribes. His claim was upheld by three Court of Appeal judges who agreed that Sun Alliance had failed to provide him with a fair reference but instead intimated that his honesty was under scrutiny. Mr Cox, who had been an area manager, suffered a stress breakdown and was forced to retire after 17 years with his employer. At the time Sun Alliance agreed a £21,000 settlement. However, Mr Cox, who has lost his job, career, health, livelihood and home, is suing Sun Alliance for £2 million. In 1997 Sun Alliance was in court in the case of Lyn Witheridge, founder of the Andrea Adams Trust.

Trauma

Bullying results in major trauma and is recognised as a major cause of PTSD.

July 1997: Former chauffeur Joseph Kennedy was awarded £350,000 damages after his multiple sclerosis was deemed by the High Court to have been triggered by trauma following a car crash.

16 June 1998: Roger Knott of Blackheath, South London, was awarded a record £825,000 damages by the High Court for injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from a gas explosion whilst he was descaling a boiler. This is the largest ever award for PTSD; Mr Knott's life was wrecked by the explosion and he is now unable to work and in need of constant care and attention.

Industrial injury

1996/7: two teachers bullied out of their jobs by head teachers in Somerset secondary schools can claim industrial injury compensation after the Department of Social Security recognised their cases as industrial injury accidents. One case concerned a woman who was told her job was being axed without the head following proper procedures. The other involved a teacher who was systematically over-burdened with work which led to a year off work followed by ill-health retirement at the age of 42. The teachers' cases, which were handled by the NASUWT, were registered with the DSS as industrial injuries and thus eligible for compensation. The non-contributory, no-fault benefit for disabilities caused by accidents in the workplace is payable in addition to other incapacity and disability benefits. [TES report]

July 2001: in a follow-up to Stone v. Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Stone has been successful in her application for industrial injury benefit as a result of the bullying she endured at the hands of training manager Paul Jones whilst employed by Lancaster Chamber of Commerce.

See also legal judgement with respect to industrial injuries benefit.

Time limits

6 June 2000: an employment tribunal in Ashford, Kent, is hearing a case of serious sexual harassment and sex discrimination five years after the event. The time limit for a application to tribunal is 12 weeks and limits, determined in the early 1970's when most tribunals were for manual employees unfairly dismissed, are normally strictly enforced. Former mortgage adviser Monica Sheridan described a year-long campaign of sexual harassment, exposure and indecency committed by financial director Robert Allen in her presence which resulted in severe psychiatric injury. Miss Sheridan is claiming harassment, discrimination and personal injury against her former employer estate agents Ward and Partners in Chatham, Kent.

2002: in Somjee v. United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed with Ms Somjee that the ten years of adjournments, delays, changes of venue and appeals she endured constituted a breach of her human rights whereby people have a right to expect a fair trial within a reasonable period of time. In 1988 Ms Somjee brought complaints of racial discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal against Mersey Regional Health Authority following an adverse performance appraisal.

July 2003: in Defer-Wyatt v Williams (EAT 24/7/03) HHJ Peter Clark adjudged that if an employee reasonably holds a mistaken belief as to the correct EDT (resulting in late submission of the IT1), and it is not reasonably practicable for him to present his claim for unfair dismissal within time, an extension of time should be granted.

See also action/timelim.htm

PTSD and tribunal 12-week application limit

In Messenger v. Oxfordshire County Council (May 1998), Mr Messenger was a teacher at Chipping Norton School who alleges he was bullied by close and senior colleagues. The trauma of severe PTSD caused by the bullying prevented Mr Messenger from applying to tribunal until a year after he was coerced into ill-health retirement. In a tribunal hearing of a preliminary point, counsel for Oxfordshire County Council dismissed medical evidence and relied exclusively on procedures to prevent Mr Messenger from bringing his case to tribunal.
Oxfordshire County Council therefore not only denied Mr Messenger justice but also denied him the opportunity to seek justice; this tactic could be seen as an abuse of human rights. It was noted that on the one hand Oxfordshire County Council is cutting services, closing libraries, and sacking teachers because it alleges there is not enough money, but is simultaneously paying thousands of pounds to barristers to prevent former teachers and other employees bringing cases of unfair dismissal to tribunal. It was also noted that many of Mr Messenger's witnesses at the tribunal were Oxfordshire residents whose council tax was being appropriated to fund Oxfordshire County Council's barrister.
In Sherwood v. Oxfordshire County Council (March 1998) Mr Sherwood was awarded £24,000 after he was coerced into retirement because of ill health. The tribunal said that "the council's motto of Caring Countywide did not tally with its treatment of Mr Sherwood". The Council's motto may need supplementing with unless you're an Oxfordshire County Council employee bullied out of their job.
With more cases in the pipeline, a support group has been formed to highlight and quantify the waste of taxpayers' money and help other Oxfordshire County Council employees gain justice.

In most public sector cases, awards are made out of public funds. As a taxpayer, how happy are you with the way your income tax and council tax is being spent?


Links

Croner's employment law is at http://www.croner.co.uk/ and has free registration for access to their search engine.

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) mission is to report any cases which change or modify the law: www.lawreports.co.uk

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) provides online information on tribunal and court cases.

The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers is a non-profit organisation which provides practical support for lawyers and other professionals working for adults and children who have been abused.

The provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act in relation to bullying and harassment at work are described on the web site http://www.harassment-law.co.uk

Employment Law on a Disc main index, including bullying and harassment.

Gillian Kelly's web site at http://www.telecoms.net/law/index.html looks at the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and legal recognition thereof.


Tim Field is not a legal professional and regrets he is not able to act as an expert witness. Information is given in good faith. In all matters consult a competent qualified professional.


Where now?
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Bullyonline action forum for validation and re-empowerment
UK Dignity at Work Bill |Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Bullying and human rights |Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Barber v. Somerset County Council
Zimmerman: retaliation in the US courts
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Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work (CABAW)
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