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Chambers & Partners
12/11/2021

Ben Collins QC/Slater and Gordon Win Discrimination Tribunal Against London Borough

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Ben Collins QC, instructed by Slater and Gordon (S+G) has won an Employment Tribunal on behalf of client Ms R Wright-Turner against the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham unfair dismissal arising from direct disability discrimination. Ben represented Ms Wright Turner at Tribunal.

Ms Wright-Turner had been employed by the London Borough as Director for Public Services Reform since 2017.  This role followed on from her previous 3 years working for Hammersmith and Fulham as the Triborough Director Of Commissioning for Children’s Services (together with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the City of Westminster in the Triborough Partnership). Ms Wright-Turner brought claims in 2018 for direct discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments, harassment, victimisation, whistleblowing and unauthorised deduction of wages.

At the commencement of her employment, Ms Wright-Turner had advised her employer of her ADHD and also the PTSD which she was experiencing as a result of her involvement supporting those affected by the Grenfell fire in her previous role. She completed the Employment Health Assessment Form and she also discussed this with the Occupational Health Unit the following day. The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham argued that Ms Wright-Turner failed to declare her disabilities and when called into a meeting to discuss her ADHD, was told that they did not realise she was being serious when discussing ADHD with colleagues in previous meetings.

Following the meeting, Ms Wright-Turner experienced a mental health breakdown after work whilst in the company of colleagues.  While Ms Wright-Turner was on sick leave, she was informed that her probationary period had been extended by three months with no formal feedback provided on her performance and no opportunity to discuss the decision before it was taken.

The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Wright-Turner’s claims for direct disability discrimination with regards to the probationary extension and subsequent dismissal. Ms Wright-Turner was neither warned that she was at risk of dismissal or given any opportunity to make representations before this decision was taken. Nor was she given the opportunity to appeal. The tribunal also noted a deception by senior staff within the Council at that time to facilitate the termination of Ms Wright-Turner without following the Probationary or the Sickness Absence Policies.

Associate Karen Murray successfully managed the case at Slater and Gordon. Ben Collins QC of Old Square Chambers represented Ms Wright-Turner at the Employment Tribunal.

Commenting on the Employment Tribunal’s judgment, S+G associate Karen Murray said:

“We are absolutely delighted for Ms Wright-Turner who has been through an awful lot over the past three years.  The Judgment is lengthy and scathing of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and deservedly so.  A local government department cannot expect to get away with treating its employees in such a way.  Local authorities are often the first port of call for the vulnerable in their communities, and this case highlights the lack of understanding and compassion surrounding hidden disabilities.

Ms Wright-Turner added:

“I am relieved with the Judgment and that the truth can now begin to be more widely understood.   Whilst the implications of the tribunal’s conclusion are devastating, it is fair and they deserve every word of it.  The last three years have been a living nightmare for myself, my children and family and this process has not yet concluded, as those responsible are held accountable.  I would like to thank each and every member of my superb legal team, past and present, who have not only done a stellar job managing my case successfully, but who have continuously been a real personal support throughout.”

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Ben Collins QC

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