EADT24 18 April 2008
A CITY worker suffering from ME today likened her successful fight against unfair dismissal and discrimination at a top firm to “David versus Goliath”.
Brave Julie Pine, 31, was forced to watch her legal proceedings from the front room of her Suffolk home and give evidence via video link as she was too ill to travel to London.
But she said she was delighted after an employment tribunal found in her favour against claims for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and victimisation against top private equity firm Cinven.
“This was a David versus Goliath case – I had to fight all the way,” said Ms Pine, who lives in Leavenheath near Sudbury. “I hope this case serves as a warning to employers that no matter how powerful or rich they are, they are not above the law and they have to take the health of their employees seriously.”
Ms Pine was made redundant from her £30,000 job as a database administrator by Cinven in December 2006. The 10-day hearing at London’s Employment Tribunal heard how Ms Pine was diagnosed with ME after a prolonged period of doctor’s appointments and absences.
The multi-million pound buyout investment company notified Ms Pine of her redundancy after ignoring a suggestion from her doctor that she would benefit from a gradual return to work.
During a four-hour judgment, the tribunal panel found she had been unfairly dismissed because Cinven did not consult with her about other options which might have saved Ms Pine’s employment.
The tribunal further held that Cinven had failed to make reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in relation to the redundancy process and had victimised her after engaging in “delays and evasive behaviour” in not supplying her a copy of their Critical Illness Policy.
Ms Pine’s solicitor, Richard Woodman, said: “This case is a warning to all employers that what constitutes a disability is not always obvious and that there are occasions when their duty to unwell staff goes beyond current best practice.
“ME is a genuine and potentially disabling illness and employers have a duty to ensure employees suffering from this condition are adequately supported.”
Speaking after the hearing, a spokesman for Cinven said: “We are pleased that no harassment or direct discrimination on grounds of disability has been upheld and our constant case that Julie Pine was dismissed by being made redundant has been upheld.
“We are undertaking a full review of all our employment procedures and hope that we can learn from this episode and move on.”
The tribunal is due to arrange a hearing shortly to discuss Ms Pine’s award of compensation.