A recent Employment Tribunal case emphasises the dangers faced by employers who allow themselves to be caught up in claims that involve an element of discrimination, lawyers warn. Dr Michalak, a female Polish doctor, moved to the UK from Poland in April 2002 and worked for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust until her dismissal in July 2008.
The tribunal found that Dr Michalak had been subjected to a campaign to bring her employment to an end.
Senior managers had raised unjustifi ed complaints about her, made repeated reference to her Polish origins and questioned her capability on many occasions due to her having trained in Poland.
As a result of this treatment, the tribunal found that she was unlikely to be able to work again in medical practice. She was awarded a total of £2.4 million in damages which, when “grossed up” to take account of tax, cost her former employer £4.5 million.
In cases of unfair dismissal that involve an element of discrimination the usual cap of £72,300 (from 1 February 2012) does not apply.
Three senior managers were held jointly liable for the award, meaning Dr Michalak could theoretically enforce it against any of them. Lawyers say that employees are often unaware that they can be held personally liable for their own actions and as an employer it is worthwhile reminding them of that fact.