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Marketing manager wins disability discrimination claim after bosses avoided tackling her poor performance while being treated for breast cancer

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Mrs L Lyddall v The Wooldridge Partnership Ltd a marketing manager who was sacked after bosses avoided criticising her because she had breast cancer has won more than £30,000 in a discrimination claim after successfully representing herself.

Lucy Lyddall had been underperforming in her role at The Wooldridge Partnership construction company but was never told her managers were unhappy with her, an employment tribunal heard.

Rather than speak to the 50-year-old about improving her work, she was given “positive reinforcement” by bosses who didn’t want to add to her stress.

When she returned from time off to recover from breast cancer treatment, she says she was “completely shocked” when she was fired.

Mrs Lyddall – who came up with marketing strategies for some of Wooldridge’s businesses in its retail, hospitality and leisure portfolio – began working for the company in March 2021.

Just two months later, she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and had to take time off for hospital treatment, then more time off in July for further treatment and for her wedding to her husband Chris, 37.

However, when she returned to work in August 2021 – the day after her short honeymoon – Costas Constantinou, a consultant to Wooldridge, told her she was being “let go” and that “your vision is not their vision”.

Mrs Lyddall told the employment tribunal: “At no time did anyone talk to me about my performance. In fact, all I received was positive reinforcement.”

Mr Constantinou, who had a “good relationship” with Mrs Lyddall, said there was a “number of examples” related to “poor performance”, including poor social media posts and work on websites.

He said she “failed to engage with the directors and stakeholders and failed to deliver and did not develop a brand identity”.

Mrs Lyddall, who has one child and two stepchildren, disputes allegations that her work was unsatisfactory but admitted a number of “serious errors or faults” which she says were not serious enough to justify dismissal.

When Mr Constantinou was asked why he didn’t speak to her about improving her work, he said: “I do not think that is the right approach.”

Mr Wooldridge told her: “Obviously it was the decision made that we should not put you on any more stress with the feedback.”

Employment Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto ruled Mrs Lyddall had been the victim of disability discrimination.

The judge added: “Mr Wooldridge… had her disability in mind when he stated that one reason for not referring her to negative feedback was her disability and the medical treatment, she was either about to undergo or had undergone.

The judge said Mrs Lyddall could not have known she was failing and that “concerns about her performance were not so serious as to justify termination of employment”.

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