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Barrister who caused assistant’s “collapse” must pay £155,000

A barrister who caused her assistant to suffer a mental and physical “collapse” has been ordered to pay her over £155,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal.

The barrister admitted describing the assistant on WhatsApp as a “very sick young lady” and saying, “the best place for her I think is a mental asylum”.

The names of the parties were kept anonymous. Employment Judge Lewis in East London ruled at the liability hearing that the assistant (C) was employed by the unnamed barrister (D) for less than nine months, but the disability discrimination she suffered led to her being hospitalised and suffering daily seizures akin to epilepsy.

D was a barrister working with a solicitor but employed C under a personal contract which was not with a law firm or chambers.

C worked as “variously a virtual legal assistant, personal assistant and office manager” between the March and December 2021.

Judge Lewis said C made D aware of her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety in March 2021, before starting to work for her and told D about her fibromyalgia – a chronic pain condition – that summer.

However, since her “health collapsed in July 2022”, C had been “completely unable to work”, unable to “concentrate on anything for any length of time” and “unable to go out alone”.

Judge Lewis found. “I am satisfied that it would have been reasonable for D to have adjusted the claimant’s workload so as to allow her two clear days break from work. I find that there was a failure to make a reasonable adjustment in this respect contrary to section 21 of the Equality Act 2010.”

D was guilty of unfavourable treatment as well by threatening C with losing her role as personal assistant if she was unable to work seven days a week.

Judge Lewis awarded £90,000 for injury to feelings and personal injury.

She was awarded over £60,400 for past and future loss of earnings, and almost £5,000 in interest, making a total of over £155,400.

Source: LegalFutures

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