Charity faces £21k bill after tribunal

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A CHARITABLE organisation has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 after failing to take proper steps to help reduce the risk of a member of staff suffering from a severe migraine.

In a damning judgment, an employment tribunal has accused trustees of the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW) of failing in their duty to monitor the conduct of their paid officials.

At a six-day hearing at Abergele, the organisation’s chief officer John Gallanders was found to have engineered a hearing to discuss Ms Bove’s disability discrimination claim in a room where there was fluorescent lighting, knowing that it was such lighting which triggered her migraine attacks.

When Ms Bove lodged an official grievance against Mr Gallanders it was not handled properly by the trustees, who merely deferred all decisions to the officers, the tribunal heard.

Ms Bove – known as Genny – from Moss, near Wrexham, began working as a carers fieldworker for AVOW in August 2008.

She had previously worked for AVOW for a short period in 2007, when she had unsuccessfully asked for the office lighting to be changed to help reduce the migraine attacks.

That was when she first clashed with Mr Gallanders and that, the tribunal found, was what prompted him to try to make things difficult for her when she returned.

In his evidence he referred to her poor performance, but failed to give any examples.

At the hearing a letter was produced in which Mr Gallanders had asked for an enhanced CRB check on her, stating: “It might be a long shot, but there may be something that shows up in this which may indicate she is unstable for the job.”

After failing to get a satisfactory response to her grievances about working conditions Ms Bove resigned in March 2009, and subsequently lodged a claim for unfair and constructive dismissal.

The tribunal upheld that claim and her claim of disability discrimination, based on the fact that AVOW had failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability, but was also guilty of direct discrimination and victimisation.

In addition to a basic award of £626, the Association was ordered to pay her £8,000 plus interest for injury to feelings and compensation of £12,072, making a total of £21,177.

Employment Judge Barrie Clarke said: “We were all saddened by the fact that our award for compensation will badly hit an organisation that works to assist voluntary organisations and carers within the local community.

“Nonetheless, its ability to pay is not a relevant factor. We should not award smaller sums against smaller organisations just because they have shallower pockets.”

Ms Bove, who represented herself throughout the dispute, said yesterday: “I was made very ill by this whole experience and I’m still suffering its effects

“The whole sorry saga was completely unnecessary.

“In my last three places of employment suitable adjustments were made to the office lighting for just a few pounds, it’s really not that difficult to change a light bulb or two.”

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