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Over £40,000 for breast cancer patient harassed by boss

Coglan v The Hideaways Clubs (UK) Ltd

Ms Coglan worked as the office manager and PA to the CEO (Mrs Leach) at The Hideaways Club (UK) Ltd from 2 September 2013 until her resignation in 2015. During her employment, Ms Coglan was diagnosed with Grade 3 invasive breast cancer and required urgent treatment including chemotherapy.  Ms Coglan was initially treated with sympathy by Mrs Leach but as she needed to attend more medical appointments the relationship deteriorated with the CEO of the Club claiming that Ms Coglan had not done “a single day’s work” in the three months since her diagnosis.

Mrs Leach then held a meeting with Ms Coglan, removing her adjusted work pattern whilst she was going through treatment without proper consultation or discussion, placed her on sick leave for a period of three to four months (when she received Statutory Sick Pay only) and required Ms Coglan to accept a different role and a reduced salary. Following this Mrs Leach, went on to make further demands of Ms Coglan, requiring documentary proof of certain aspects of her treatment and providing medical evidence to prove that she was fit to work when Ms Coglan had not been signed off as unfit. Mrs Leach also stated that Ms Coglan was required to take sick leave on reduced pay if she had a medical appointment during her normal working hours.

Ms Coglan resigned in September 2015. Ms Coglan produced medical evidence that she had suffered a “bad psychological trauma” due to the actions of Mrs Leach and that this would potentially affected the physical treatment of her breast cancer.

Ms Coglan succeeded in claims for compensation of disability discrimination and harassment.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal found all four requirements set out by the employer, namely removing Ms Coglan’s adjusted work pattern during treatment, sending her on sick leave, requiring her to accept a different role and a reduced salary and asking for medical documentation amounted to discrimination arising from Ms Coglan’s disability and in particular the asking for documentation also amounted to disability related harassment.

The Employment Tribunal found that there was clear and credible evidence (in the form of documented emails and notes) of the long-standing injury to feelings suffered by Ms Coglan due to the “uncaring attitude” that Mrs Leach demonstrated towards her after her diagnosis. The Employment Tribunal concluded that Ms Coglan should be awarded compensation for injury to feelings in the sum of £18,749.37 (including interest), £7,500 for personal injury as she had suffered a moderately severe psychiatric injury.

The Employment Tribunal also awarded further sums for financial losses, including counselling and psychological sessions and the cost of a move back to Ireland due to the causal relationship between the discrimination suffered during her employment and her inability to work after this. Ms Coglan was awarded a total sum of £47,701.99.

Comment

Employees diagnosed with cancer immediately have the protection afforded to them by virtue of the Equality Act 2010, whether at the stage of their diagnosis, their condition has a substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out day to day activities. This case serves as a useful reminder of the financial penalties involved if an employer does not treat a disabled employee appropriately.

Employers should also bear in mind that the duty to make reasonable adjustments arises, if an employee is disabled and in the circumstances described above they may have included, for example, allowing the employee to be absent during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment. However, each person will be different and reasonable adjustments will need to be considered in their particular circumstances.

If you have any queries relating to disability discrimination or any other HR queries please contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600 or 01524 548484.

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