Cancer survivor receives £50k after 'stickler' boss' treatment

Cancer survivor receives £50k after 'stickler' boss' treatment

An employee who battled and survived cancer has also won a legal battle against her employer, who accused her of not doing a ‘single day’s work’ whilst undergoing treatment.

Eimear Coghlan, 34, was awarded £50,000 of compensation by a judge at an employment tribunal, after it ruled she had been victim of 'plainly unfavourable treatment'.

Coghlan was a PA and Office Manager for Poonam Dhawan-Leach at The Hideaways Club (UK), a luxury property investment firm based in Kensington, West London.

Whilst Coghlan was initially treated with sympathy by her employer, the tribunal found that the relationship between Leach and Coghlan became 'frayed' two months after her diagnosis in December 2014 - The Daily Mail reports.

Leach contacted the firm's HR consultants for advice about the arrangement, alleging Coghlan had 'not done a single day's work' in the past three months, claiming the situation was not sustainable.

Coghlan's flexible working arrangements, which included a concession that she could work from home if she felt unwell and could have her desk in another office, were ended.

An 'inflexible' arrangement was then made, which required Coghlan take sick leave on reduced pay for at least half a day if she had a medical appointment. She was also asked to provide letters from her doctors to prove she was fit to work.

In April, the Chief Executive sent Coghlan an email, saying she refused to take sick leave and had therefore been treated as normal, but was 'unfit to work'.

Coghlan was signed off with stress and said she 'could not face' going back and eventually resigned in September 2015.

The Hideaways Club contested Coghlan's claims, with their lawyers arguing that many of the decisions taken due to concerns about her health.

Judge David Pearl described Leach as 'something of a stickler' for office procedures, concluding that she ‘went too far’ in her treatment of Coghlan, subjecting her to 'particularly exacting scrutiny'.

He added that her requests for Coghlan’s medical letters 'violated her dignity' and that making her take half a day's sick leave for an appointment was 'irrational'.

Judge Pearl concluded: “This was unwanted conduct related to her disability and it had the effect of creating a hostile, humiliating and offensive environment for her. The argument based upon the safety of the claimant is particularly unconvincing.”

Employers must be mindful of how they approach employee sickness, providing support, not stress. Read more in our wellbeing guide, here.

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