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Agency worker wins direct disability discrimination claim after contract was terminated immediately after disclosing mental health issues

In the case of Ms Zalejska v Cameo Consultancy (Recruitment) Limited the Respondent is an employment business which provides agency workers to hirers for temporary and permanent assignments. Ms L is a Senior Recruitment Consultant and has worked for the Respondent since 2015. On 6 June 2022, Ms L emailed the Claimant asking if she would be interested in a temporary role with Principal Medical Limited, an organisation which is run and owned by GPs who bid for and supply healthcare services. The Claimant was asked to have a telephone interview with Ms Nichols who worked as the Business Support and Complaints Manager and who offered the Claimant the job.

In the case of Ms Zalejska v Cameo Consultancy (Recruitment) Limited the Respondent is an employment business which provides agency workers to hirers for temporary and permanent assignments. Ms L is a Senior Recruitment Consultant and has worked for the Respondent since 2015.

On 6 June 2022, Ms L emailed the Claimant asking if she would be interested in a temporary role with Principal Medical Limited, an organisation which is run and owned by GPs who bid for and supply healthcare services. The Claimant was asked to have a telephone interview with Ms Nichols who worked as the Business Support and Complaints Manager and who offered the Claimant the job.

Everything went well for the first two days. On 15 June 2022, the Claimant was being trained by a colleague. She was having some difficulty taking the card details from a patient over the phone. The colleague then took the phone from the Claimant and proceeded to take the card details. The Claimant’s evidence to the Tribunal was that the colleague said to the patient on the phone that the Claimant had become “over-stressed” and referred to her as “panicking”. The Claimant felt it was unprofessional for her colleague to have made these comments to the patient about the Claimant, even if she was still being trained.

The Claimant found the atmosphere in the office was unpleasant after this incident had occurred, and so she decided to speak to her manager, Ms N, about it. The Claimant explained what happened and went on to say that she suffered with her mental health, has depression and anxiety, and said she took medication. They agreed the Claimant would contact her GP and the Claimant left work and returned home.

Shortly thereafter, she received a phone call from Ms L terminating her assignment.

The tribunal concluded the less favourable treatment towards the Claimant was because of her disclosure of her mental health issues, and that Ms N and Ms L “would have taken a different approach if faced with a very upset worker but who had not disclosed a disability”.

Employment Judge Annand said: “It was the fact that the Claimant disclosed her mental health condition and the fact she disclosed she was on antidepressant medication that made Ms N doubt that the Claimant had sufficient resilience for the role and may have had difficulty dealing with unhappy patients.”

Annand added that the tribunal found it “surprising” that Ms L did not seek to discuss the contract’s termination with Ms N and that “she did not seek to persuade Ms N to let Ms L speak to the Claimant before a decision was made, nor did she wait to inquire how she was after her GP”.

The tribunal found that it was “unlikely” that a non-disabled temporary worker would have been “immediately dismissed on the basis that they had become very upset and distressed at work one morning”.

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