This blog is a record of my experiences as an employee of the Association of Voluntary Services in Wrexham (AVOW) told largely through the words of the Employment Tribunal that found against AVOW in the case I brought. It describes how this publicly funded voluntary organisation and registered charity, and most particularly its Chief Officer John Gallanders, reacted to my request for reasonable adjustments to enable me to work there. The way I was treated over a period of about seven months led to me suffering from stress and depression from which I have not yet fully recovered, three years on.
I have long suffered from severe migraines and one of the triggers for these is fluorescent strip lighting. My previous employer had simply provided alternative lighting to allow me to switch off the strip lights. Even though I was transferred to AVOW under TUPE arrangements and on my existing terms and conditions, AVOW flatly refused to do this in the windowless office where I was to be working, failed to find me an alternative space to work in the large building it inhabits and refused to make any other suitable arrangements to meet my needs.
John Gallanders, along with his then Deputy Rachel Ross, aided and abetted by the Trustees who manifestly failed in their duties, subjected me to what the Tribunal found to be direct disability discrimination and victimisation and acts which amounted to a fundamental breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, in response to which I resigned. The Tribunal found that John Gallanders acted in bad faith towards me throughout the period of my employment at AVOW and even before I transferred there.
These acts included but went way beyond the issue of lighting. For example, in relation to victimisation, the Tribunal found:
[T]he respondent victimised the claimant… That victimisation took various forms: the initial reluctance of Mr Gallanders to accept the claimant… under TUPE; his expressed desire to be ‘awkward’ with her on the issue of medical evidence; his stubborn refusal… to make reasonable adjustments…; his control of the respondent’s internal procedures so as to deprive her of a meaningful resolution to her grievances; his subsequent refusal to allow her access to the trustees for redress; his unilateral withdrawal of the whistleblowing policy…; worst of all, his ‘long shot’ of trying to show her instability by seeking an unnecessary enhanced CRB disclosure… This last step was reprehensible (a word we do not use lightly) and an abuse of his position…
John Gallanders is guilty of gross misconduct on several counts according to AVOW’s own Employee Handbook, an offence which may be dealt with by instant dismissal. To date, John Gallanders remains at the helm of AVOW. Six of the Trustees who were directly involved in my case plus others who were responsible for AVOW during the period of my employment are still members of the Board of AVOW. The Trustees were found to have failed to carry out their duties properly in many respects, including failing to oversee the conduct of their Chief Officer, deferring all decisions to officers and completely failing to deal with my complaint about John Gallanders’ behaviour towards me.
I have set up this blog so that anyone who is interested can find out for themselves more about the judgment in the Employment Tribunal Claim Bove v AVOW, case number 2902546/2008. I have decided to publish this information because some of the mainstream media coverage (especially that which has appeared so far in English tabloids) contains misinformation and is inaccurate.
The case deals with disability discrimination, including failure to make reasonable adjustments, direct discrimination and victimisation, and unfair (constructive) dismissal.
The ruling is from the Employment Tribunal. It is NOT the judgment of an Employment Appeals Tribunal (ie it’s not case law).
The full written reasons are some 59 pages long and are not included here in their entirety.
There were many additional aspects to this case, including a lengthy ruling on the admissibility of certain documents over which the respondent attempted to assert privilege.
There is also a section on the criteria which have to be met for a disability discrimination claim to succeed under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act. Recent claims, however, will come under the Equality Act 2010, which differs in some respects from the DDA.
I have created separate sections to deal with these aspects of the ruling.
It would certainly have helped me, with no legal training or experience of employment law, to have some of the legal analysis before rather than after the Tribunal Hearing and I would encourage other people who have been through employment tribunals to publish the written reasons in their cases or at least the parts which deal with points of law.
Updated October 2011