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£4.6m in damages awarded to former employee of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Groundbreaking case of Mrs. R W-T v London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, where she was awarded £4.6m in damages for disability discrimination.

In the case of Mrs R W-T v London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (1) Ms K Dero (2), Mrs R W-T has been awarded £4.6m in damages, by an Employment Tribunal, after suing her former employer, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, for disability discrimination. This is believed to be one of the highest, and potentially the highest, figure for a judgment of this kind.

A Tribunal found in her favour in 2021, and also found that the Council’s officers had given untrue evidence to the Tribunal. The matter was then held over for a separate hearing to determine the damages award. The judgment on that decision was handed down on 13 March 2024, and awarded Ms Wright-Turner a total of £4,580,577.39.

Formerly the Director of Public Service Reform at Hammersmith and Fulham, the Tribunal heard that Ms Wright-Turner suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of her work for a previous employer, spearheading the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

In 2021, the Tribunal concluded that the Council’s discrimination on the basis of her PTSD was the reason for her dismissal, and that senior officers at Hammersmith and Fulham had “acted to deliberately mislead” her. The Tribunal also found that Council officers had been dishonest in their evidence to the Tribunal.

Additionally, it found that the Council’s Chief Executive, its Interim Head of Corporate Services, its Strategic Director of Governance and Finance and Section 151 Officer, and the Council’s Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, were all involved in a deliberate deception.

The Tribunal heard that the effects of the dismissal on Ms W-T had been extremely severe. In the period since her dismissal, her health had been damaged so significantly as to make it likely that she would never work again. In addition, her marriage had ended, and repossession proceedings had been started because she had been unable to pay mortgage arrears which had arisen as a consequence of her lack of income.

Exemplary damages against Hammersmith and Fulham were also awarded. This is only available against “servants of the government” and are the only category of damages available to an Employment Tribunal which has the express purpose of punishing conduct – that which is “oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional” – rather than merely compensating a victim for their loss. Awards for exemplary damages are extremely rare and it is thought that this is the first example of their use by any Employment Tribunal in at least a decade, and potentially longer.

Source: Lexology

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