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Teacher awarded £346,000 after being ‘bullied and victimised’

Posted: 21st March 2017   In: Business Employment, Individual Employment

A teacher with bipolar disorder has been awarded £346,000 compensation in a disability discrimination case in which she says she was “bullied and victimised”.

Nicola Sinclair was forced to resign from the Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School after developing mental health issues. She had worked there for 23 years.

Three months after losing her job, Ms Sinclair was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her marriage has since broken down and she now lives alone in a caravan.

Last April, the Employment Tribunal upheld her claims of constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. A further hearing has now been held to decide the level of compensation.

Psychiatrist, Dr Gary Jenkins, said Ms Sinclair suffered severe stress as a result of the way she was managed in the autumn term in 2014 after several months off with mental health problems.

Following complaints about her from some pupils, she was told she would be formally observed during lessons. She was also asked to meet new head teacher Marc Belli to discuss concerns.

Dr Jenkins told the tribunal: “I think the end result was that she felt psychologically shattered when there was a change in management.

"She felt victimised and bullied and certain things she was asked to do were not really fair and she psychologically crumbled as a result of ongoing work-related stress and the behaviour of management towards her.”

Ms Sinclair’s barrister, Christopher Howells, said she was told by Mr Belli at a meeting in December, 2014 to accept a settlement or agree to capability proceedings.

Mr Howells said: “Victimisation and bullying were the major stresses that ultimately caused the breakdown.

“Being brought into a room in December she was told to accept settlement or be put through capability proceedings that only one in 10 teachers pass. That was outrageous behaviour. She should have been treated with kid gloves. Instead she was treated with an iron fist.”

The barrister for the school, Kerry Gardiner, said Ms Sinclair’s health was deteriorating before she started having problems at work. “It’s clear the respondent’s treatment is not on its own what caused her ill health.”

The tribunal awarded her £346,175 compensation to cover a number of factors including loss of earnings, notice pay, future loss of earnings, injury to feelings and pension loss.

Judge Sian Davies said: “The purpose of performance management is to improve performance. We must consider what would have happened if a supportive programme had been put in place.

“It seems that had performance management been dealt with support and sensitivity the claimant may well have been able to sustain a long career with performance at an adequate level.”

Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would more information about the issues raised in this article or about making a claim under employment law.

Posted by: Jackie Cuneen
Luton Office