Junior lawyer wins £23,000 in discrimination claim after IBS disclosure halts recruitment process
Article by: Makbool Javaid, Partner – Simons Muirhead & Burton |
In Mrs K Farrow v Foster Clay Law Ltd a start-up law firm has been ordered to pay a junior lawyer around £23,000 for discriminating against her during its recruitment process.
An employment tribunal sitting in Leeds found that Foster Clay Law treated Kandice Farrow unfavourably by halting talks over a job offer after finding out about her illness and history of absence from work.
The tribunal heard that Farrow, who was disabled at the time due to chronic illness, had worked previously as a trainee solicitor with Yorkshire firm Pinkney Grunwells but left in 2019. She had raised a grievance against the firm over the treatment of her condition, after she had a long period of intermittent sick leave relating to her illness.
Having qualified and now in search of work, she was contacted by Natalie Foster, owner of Foster Clay Law, about joining the newly established company. Farrow said they discussed her illness in detail and the tribunal accepted she was forthright about her condition to avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings.
Farrow said she was offered a job, subject to references, although the firm denied talks had got to that stage. Foster then contacted Farrow’s former boss at Pinkney Grunwells who told her about the solicitor’s shortcoming and that there was a pattern to her absences that they usually occurred on a Monday. Foster’s notes recorded that Farrow may have a bad attitude and could be a risk to the business.
The tribunal found that Foster knew that Farrow previously had significant absences from work due to her illness and that it would need flexibility and to make adjustments.
It was further found that Foster’s subsequent decision to end the recruitment process was primarily over concerns about her sickness absence and timekeeping.
‘As it was, the discriminatory effect of the unfavourable treatment on the claimant was significant,’ said the tribunal. ‘She was a newly qualified solicitor with a disability, who needed significant flexibility, meaning her job search was unlikely to be straightforward’.
In a statement following the ruling, the firm said: ‘This case highlights the challenges faced for businesses, especially start-ups, recruiting remotely during the pandemic, along with the importance of having watertight processes in place for recruitment given that obligations on employers and individuals begin prior to employment starting.
‘Reassuringly the tribunal made “no finding of malice or deliberate falsehood on the part of the Respondents and Natalie Foster was not found to have had actual knowledge of disability”.’
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