The Claimant, Ms Lamb had been employed at The Garrard Academy (the School) as a teacher. Ms Lamb went off sick on 29th February 2012 because of depression and alleged bullying at work.
In March 2012 the Claimant raised a grievance about two incidents against the deputy headteacher at the School. The first incident related to the deputy head informing the Claimant that she was responsible for making a boy feel suicidal but failed to name the boy. The second incident related to the Claimant passing on to the Deputy Head written complaints that a pupil had used racist language, the Deputy Head put them in the bin without looking at them.
The Claimant’s grievance was investigated by the School’s Head of HR. The Head of HR upheld the Claimant’s grievance, but her report presented to the School’s Chief Executive was regarded as inadequate and set aside. The Chief Executive had failed to look at supporting material provided by the Head of HR. On 18th July 2012 the Claimant met with the Chief Executive and told her she was suffering from PTSD caused by childhood experiences and it could be triggered by difficult situations. The Claimant was then assessed by Occupational Health.
On 21st November 2012 Occupational Health found that the Claimant’s reactive depression had probably started in September 2011 and should fully recover if any outstanding issues relating to the grievance were resolved.
The Head of HR then left the School for unconnected reasons and was replaced. The Chief Executive told the Claimant she would deal with the two complaints herself. She later changed her mind which made the Claimant very distressed.
Months later, the Chief Executive commissioned the new Head of HR to conduct a fresh investigation. His report was submitted, and the grievance was rejected in January 2013. In evidence at the Employment Tribunal, the Chief Executive agreed that anyone looking at the supporting material provided by the Head of HR would have upheld the grievance as this was not a complicated scenario. She should have upheld the grievance as all the information was available to the School by July 2012 and if it had been upheld, it would have given the Claimant great comfort and reassurance.
The Claimant brought a claim of unlawful disability discrimination. This included a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments.
The School accepted the Claimant was disabled due to PTSD triggered by workplace bullying and reactive depression. The Employment Tribunal allowed the Claimant to make the claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments from 21st November 2012. The Employment Tribunal found that the School had knowledge of the PTSD from 18th July 2012, but it was only aware that the Claimant was disabled from 21st November 2012 once they had received the Occupational Health report and realised the Claimant had suffered with her symptoms for over one year. (In order to be disabled under the Equality Act the impairment must be over 12 months to be long term).
The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed an appeal and found the Employment Tribunal had made an error in its judgment. It found that the PTSD was triggered from events as a child and that the School’s date of actual knowledge was 18th July 2012.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal also looked at the date of constructive knowledge (i.e when the School ought to have known the Claimant was disabled). It found that the likely date was early March 2012. Had the School sent the Claimant to Occupational Health then, the Claimant had been off for four months and it was likely they would have decided her impairment was long-term.
In relation to reasonable adjustments, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found the School should have reasonably known the Claimant was disabled by March 2012; gaining actual knowledge on 18th July 2012 when the Claimant alerted the Chief Executive to the fact. This meant the Tribunal’s original decision the School should make reasonable adjustments from 21st November 2012 was wrong.
This case should be a reminder to Employers that failure to refer an Employee to Occupational Health and then claiming to have no knowledge of an Employee’s disability will not be acceptable.
Lamb v The Garrard Trust