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Consultant Awarded £4.5 Million in Discrimination Case

31 May 2012

When an employee succeeds in a claim for discrimination, only in exceptional cases will the compensation award take account of that person’s loss of future earnings up until retirement age.

In one such case, the Employment Tribunal (ET) has awarded £4.5 million to a hospital consultant who suffered mental trauma as a result of the treatment she received at the hands of fellow workers at a hospital in Yorkshire.

Dr Eva Michalak, who is Polish, worked at Pontefract General Infirmary, a District Hospital that is part of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The ET heard that she became unpopular with some members of staff after she made a complaint about her pay and, in March 2003, senior staff at the hospital began their plan to get rid of her. She was seven months pregnant at the time. There followed a concerted campaign during which Dr Michalak was subjected to psychological abuse. She received complaints about her competence and was accused of bullying junior doctors. Reference was made to her being of Polish origin and her ability as a doctor was questioned because she had completed her training in Poland.

In January 2006, Dr Michalak was suspended from her job. She was then subjected to ‘a lengthy and wholly unauthorised period of suspension’ before disciplinary proceedings eventually began in May 2007. In July 2008, she was dismissed.

Dr Michalak claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed and had suffered sex and race discrimination. Medical experts gave evidence to the ET that she had suffered chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, which had led to an ‘enduring personality change’, the seriousness of which means that she is unable to complete everyday tasks without supervision.

The ET upheld Dr Michalak’s claim of unfair dismissal, finding that the disciplinary procedure followed by the Trust was ‘bogus’ and that her dismissal was without justification. The ET panel said that it was ‘positively outraged at the way this employer has behaved’.

Furthermore, the ET upheld Dr Michalak’s claims of sex and race discrimination and ordered the Trust and three senior staff members to pay her £4,452,206.60 in compensation. This figure takes into account that it is unlikely that Dr Michalak will ever be able to work again and would most likely have retired at age 68 had she been able to continue in her chosen profession.

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