More enforcement of Disability Discrimination Law to protect disabled people at work.

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I was born with medically intractable epilepsy, my education suffered and my prospects of having any career that would enable me to live independently were diminished by the impact of the epilepsy, and the discrimination that I often faced. In an attempt to remedy that, I had surgery to remove my right temporal lobe and my hippocampus. I secured a job in the NHS as a Medical Photographer, and I disclosed my medical background on my job application. I loved my job and was promoted in my post

I was bullied over a significant length of time by a senior colleague, and harassed by a manager after protesting against the bullying behavior towards me. An investigation found that I had been bullied and harassed on five counts, and the company policy stated that the penalty for that was dismissal. Even though I made protected disclosures about my medical background and my fear for my own welfare, I was told by a Nurse Director and HR that I had no choice but to continue to work with my colleague without a manager present, despite her being found on five counts of bullying and harassment of me. A OH Consultant who was also legally trained, advised that I should not be forced to work with or have contact with my harasser. A clinical psychologist also advised against a second mediation, which was being forced on me with threats of disciplinary action if I did not take part.

I had disclosed that the epileptic auras had returned, and I was diagnosed as significantly depressed by the clinical psychologist who advised against the second mediation. With the help of  solicitors Russell Jones and Walker, I made a grievance for reasonable adjustments to be made so that I could continue in my job, but not have contact with the person who was found against for bullying and harassment of me. I became very traumatised, and had anxiety attacks each time I came into contact with the Bully, my biggest concern was that stress was always a trigger of the epilepsy.

Before my grievance for reasonable adjustments was investigated or responded to, I was placed on forced suspension against the advice of a legally trained OH Consultant who asked "why wasn't the bully dismissed". At a preliminary hearing in the tribunals, Judge Craft also asked the same question. My employer was the NHS, and under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, employers of such size are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Whilst making protected disclosures to a nurse director about the epileptic auras, she commented to me " they can do what they want, they are not going to sack the bully".

It was never part of the terms and conditions of my contract that I had to be subjected to bullying and harassment. My request for reasonable adjustments was however not upheld, and I was not allowed to go back to work in the job that I loved, and was giving me the means to live independently for the first time in my life. I was paying union subscriptions to Unison, and I spent my house deposit on solicitors after my Unison Rep told me she was not qualified enough to help me. Despite my efforts to keep my job and work in a harassment free zone, I was not allowed to go back to work, and I was dismissed on grounds of irretrievable breakdown in working relationships. I became very ill, and I was also threatened with eviction by my employer Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, even though I was paying my rent.

From disclosure of my P.File, I discovered written evidence that my dismissal was being instigated by directors and HR, immediately after my colleague was found against on five counts of Gross Misconduct against me, and it took eighteen months of unreasonable threats and harassment, which made me ill to the point I was disabled and unable to cope in the presence of my harasser, due to the physical and psychological impact that was having on me.

Shortly after the preliminary hearing in 2013 where Judge Craft asked the question "why wasn't the bully dismissed", I discovered that Salisbury NHS foundation Trust dismissed the bully. Shortly after that, DAC Beachcroft, (solicitors acting for my former employer) applied to the court to get my medical reports thrown out of court. Before the hearings took place, they also wrote to me stating that they would make application for me to pay their legal fees, but if I withdrew my claims they would reconsider.

My mother attended the tribunal with me. At the tribunal I was represented by Michael Oram. Whilst it was not accepted by Judge Kolanko that I was disabled by epilepsy, (despite having suffered that and the impact of it for the majority of my life) and the removal of my right temporal lobe, and my right hippocampus, it was accepted that I had become disabled presumably by the disparity of treatment.  It was also commented by two lay judges that I should not have been forced into a second mediation, and there was also criticism about the risk assessment that was advised/recommended but never actioned by managers. Under cross examination of one manager, he claimed he did not have the tools in his tool box to do a risk assessment, another manager claimed that she was doing one in her head. The Nurse director claimed that she was not aware that I was suffering depression, yet the abundance of evidence provided to the tribunal Judges contradicted that claim. She did though admit that she dismissed a disabled person.   

My vulnerability should have been considered by my employer, not only from my own disclosures about epilepsy and removal of my right temporal lobe and hippocampus, which were made on my application and also in verbal exchange during discussion with managers, but also from the disclosures and advice that was being given by health care professionals employed by the same organisation, and acting on behalf of myself and my employer. 

My inability to cope in circumstances that were being unreasonably forced on me, arose from my own incapacity related to my disclosed protected characteristic, which was worsened by treatment that was unlawful and not a part of the terms and conditions of my contract. Under the protection of the disability discrimination law and the Equality Act 2010, I should have been protected in the workplace, and been able to have kept my job.