A care home manager who was sacked after asking to work four days a week has won more than £100,000 at an employment appeal tribunal.
Marie Raphael had requested reduced working hours after suffering a stroke, but she soon found herself accused of misconduct and was dismissed.
An employment judge has now ruled that Raphael’s boss was looking for an opportunity to sack her, and jumped on a ‘minor error’ as an excuse to oust her.
Raphael has now successfully sued for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
According to the legal documents, Raphael was working as Trentside Manor Care Home when, in 2018, she approached boss Pargan Dhadda, with a request to reduce her working time from five to four days a week, in a bid to avoid going off sick.
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Raphael, who had worked for the company since 2011, suffered a stroke in 2015 and was also battling a chronic heart condition, both of which had a huge impact on her energy levels.
Dhadda “reluctantly” agreed to the idea on a three month trial basis. However, Raphael only took two Fridays off before she was hauled before a disciplinary panel to face misconduct allegations relating to an admin mistake, the tribunal heard.
Raphael had made “a minor error by not writing down her mental risk assessment, whilst under the significant pressures of work,” according to the tribunal.
She attended a disciplinary meeting and was told she was being let go, as she was “struggling to cope” with the “physically demanding” role, adding that she'd been found guilty of “gross misconduct”.
She subsequently launched an employment tribunal appeal process, claiming that “the misconduct charges were a pretext for dismissing her and that the true reasons related to her earlier flexible working request which, in turn, related to disability.”
Boss had wanted to sack employee for some time, judge rules
The employment judge ruled that Dhadda had been looking for an opportunity to sack Raphael and the disciplinary process was merely “an excuse”.
The judge, Liz Ord, said: “[Raphael] made a minor error by not writing down her mental risk assessment, whilst under the significant pressures of work.”
Ord added: “In any event, this was not the true reason for dismissing the claimant, but was simply an excuse. The real reason she was dismissed was because of her reduced energy levels, and need for flexible working which Pargan Dhadda had reluctantly agreed to. Therefore, it was these things, which arose out her disability, that led to the dismissal, rather than her administrative error.
“There were substantial failings in the disciplinary process. Pargan Dhadda had wanted to dismiss the claimant for some time and had discussed it with his HR advisers.
“He was looking for the first opportunity to do so. When he thought he had found it, he immediately proceeded, as quickly as possible, to put in motion basic disciplinary steps, simply to attempt to satisfy compulsory procedural requirements. He had no real interest in finding out whether the claimant had actually committed any misconduct.
“Pargan Dhadda purported to undertake an investigation, albeit with serious flaws and no proper consideration of the allegations.
“Consequently, the claimant had inadequate opportunity to consider the case against her and to properly defend herself.”
It was also stated that Raphael’s mental health “significantly deteriorated” after her sacking and that her confidence was left “shattered”.
“She had dedicated over 20 years to the care sector and loved the work and the people she cared for,” the tribunal said.
“Having an unblemished record, it was hard for her to take the sudden and unexpected accusation of gross misconduct, and to have her livelihood snatched away. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Her health was fragile and she had been under considerable stress.”
Raphael was awarded £100,840 in damages.