£682,325 for psychological harm after bullying at work
Compensation of £682,325 was awarded to a 39 year-old woman for injuries suffered four years earlier including a psychotic breakdown and depression caused by bullying in the workplace by other employees over several years.
The claimant worked for the defendant ambulance service as a business administration manager. The department was functioning poorly. Her line managers were rude and obstructive.
She was insulted directly regularly and inappropriate comments made about her. Her colleagues told her she should not be working in a "man's world".
After a few months, the claimant was signed off by her GP for reactive depression. Her workload was excessive and she had no assistance.
On returning to work no return to work interview was carried out. The policy of the defendant was to carry out such and refer to human resources or occupational health.
The claimant was appointed to a new post. Her line manager was also newly appointed. He employed his girlfriend in a post that overlapped with the claimant. The role she had moved to was taken away from her and she was asked to work on projects.
She was verbally abused by senior management. She felt distraught and told another manager she had contemplated suicide. The claimant reported her problems to another director and was seconded to a different department.
The seconded role was enjoyable. However, the defendant terminated all secondment roles and returned her to her original role. She was then advised her role was obsolete and she was asked again to do project work.
The claimant saw her GP. Anti-depressant medication was prescribed and the GP wanted to sign her off with a depressive illness. She suffered delusions and hallucinations being referred to a mental health crisis team.
She was set to return to work some months later on a graduated basis. The defendant instead put her on special leave and made her redundant.
The claimant successfully pursued a claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
It was alleged that the defendant was negligent insofar as they failed to safeguard her from suffering psychological injury arising from harassment and bullying by other employees.
As a result she suffered a psychotic breakdown and lost her employment.
The defendant knew or should have known that she could suffer a psychological injury. Its treatment of her had caused or contributed to her breakdown and subsequent illness.
The defendant maintained that the claimant had suffered from pre-existing depression and was vulnerable. They alleged they were unaware of her initial absence being work-related.
The claimant was alleged to have other circumstances in their personal and family life causing her breakdown. The defendant alleged the workplace had no effect on her eventual illness.
Conclusion and settlement
Lliability was disputed and the matter progressed to a Court hearing.
The Judge concluded bullying and harassment had occurred. The defendant failed to support the lady undermining and humiliating her. Her difficulties had been attributed to her being a woman and to inexperience.
The claimant had been prevented from commencing her proper role because of the line manager awarding a job to his girlfriend.
Any reasonable employer should have realised that the claimant would be put under undue stress and her illness was likely.
Compensation of £682,325 was accepted by way of a Court award.
£27,500 was attributed to "pain, suffering and loss of amenity."
Loss of earnings was awarded in the sum of £299,667.77.
£280,574.99 was accepted in respect of lost earnings, pension and other work related benefits.
Other items claimed were awarded at £71,004.66 and interest of £3,577.58 was awarded.