In a recent judgement, the Employment Tribunal ordered a law firm to pay about £23,000 as compensation. In this about £6000 was for pecuniary losses with around £300 interest, and £16,000 was for injury to feelings with an interest of about £1600. In addition to this, the Tribunal ordered the firm to cover the claimant’s legal fees of around £4800.
All of this was because her recruitment was terminated due to a disability. The Claimant, Kandice Farrow, suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which was clearly an issue for the respondent.
What Exactly Happened?
Kandice Farrow, a newly qualified lawyer, was looking for a job when the co-founder of Foster Clay, Natalie Foster (respondent), reached out to her. During the process, Ms Farrow made it clear that she suffered from IBS, which was confirmed by Ms Foster’s notes. The Tribunal found in Ms Foster’s notes that she was aware of the symptoms since her brother also had IBS. Additionally, she made a note of possible adjustments that would have to be made.
Ms Farrow claims that an offer was made to her, subject to references. While the law firm disagrees that she reached that stage, the tribunal found that she had proceeded to a point where references were needed. Hence, a job offer was no longer relevant.
When it came down to references, Ms Farrow’s original referees were unable to help as they were not her training manager. This is when Ms Foster reached out to her ex-employer, Ms Garret for a reference. Ms Foster learned that Ms Farrow left the company after a grievance was raised against Ms Garret. It was also made clear that Ms Farrow had been taking a lot of time off and sick days which made her unreliable, even though her work was great.
Ms Foster also got references from two more people —one which highlighted her weaknesses and the other was just factual. Subsequently, it was clear that Ms Farrow needed adjustments at work due to her sickness. Ms Foster knew she had IBS and eventually joined the dots about her leaves and issues in the previous firm.
She then wrote an email to her colleagues essentially stating that she was “not comfortable” with Ms Farrow as she is known to take too much time off. She added that since Ms Farrow is NQ, she will require supervision and if she works from home, she will not receive adequate supervision.
About an hour later, she sent out an email to Ms Farrow telling her that she was rejected for the role. Upon offering more clarity regarding her medical condition, Ms Foster said “No medical condition has any bearing on the firm’s decision to recruit”. And while that was not a lie, the ET did find it disingenuous.
What The Tribunal Has to Say
On hearing both sides, the ET thinks Ms Farrow was being honest and open about her situation. While she claimed to have told Ms Foster about the grievance she raised, Ms Foster’s notes were not indicative of it. For this, the ET found it reasonable that a potential hire may not disclose such information.
They felt that Ms Foster hid behind the excuse of timekeeping and leaves, while the main issue was her sickness. They added that Ms Foster could have disregarded references regarding the sickness to obtain more information.
Since Ms Farrow had a disability, the ET knew her job search was not easy. Hence to take away the offer after personally reaching out to Ms Farrow, was not right. As a result, Ms Farrow suffered from anxiety and depression that lasted during the hearing.
This led to the Tribunal awarding Ms Farrow a sum of £23000 as compensation, plus ordering the law firm to cover her legal fees.