A former charity worker employed in Abergavenny has won £115,000 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she had been wrongfully dismissed for whistleblowing on foul-mouthed colleagues.
Catriona Robinson was awarded the damages after it was heard that she had been “bullied” by fellow workers at mental health charity Mind, after she raised concerns about their foul language.
The Cardiff Employment tribunal also heard that Miss Robinson reported a colleague after seeing them do an offensive impression of a physically disabled woman at the charity office in Abergavenny, an action which led to Miss Robinsons being “ostracised and ignored” by members of staff.
Miss Robinson said she was so upset by the mimicking that she broke down in tears as other workers laughed. She told the tribunal that she made it clear that she viewed the behaviour as unprofessional and offensive.
The tribunal found that the raising of the complaint created a “them and us” situation which isolated the claimant, and that the language used in an open plan office environment was not only distracting but offensive.
The tribunal ruled: “There was frequent bad language and banter which overstepped the boundaries of acceptability in terms of equality and diversity.”
In response the tribunal was told by the respondent that any use of bad language was letting off steam for staff in a difficult environment and such language was not used in front of service users.
Following the incident, Miss Robinson took time off for sick leave and while off sick she raised a grievance but her concerns were dismissed by the charity after an internal investigation.
She appealed the decision but the decision was upheld.
In summary, Employment Judge Alison Frazer said: “The claimant blew the whistle on an incident which was admitted by the management involved in it. Despite this it was not escalated.
“She was suffering from some health and personal difficulties at the time and so did not push the matter but was of the view that management ought to have done something about the situation.”
“The management swept the matter under the carpet to save their own involvement in it. In so doing they failed to consider their duty of care to her.
“The lack of management or escalation led to a situation where the Claimant was ostracised and the behaviour within the office was not kept in check.”
The tribunal concluded Miss Robinson’s claims for automatically unfair dismissal, failure to make reasonable adjustments and victimisation were well founded.
She was awarded £115,657.50 in compensation - this included £48,263.20 for injury to feelings and over £40,000 for loss of earnings plus amounts for loss of statutory rights and expenses.