Stephen Jackson, solicitor and principal at Jackson Osborne, advised and represented Mrs Jean Thacker in claims of constructive unfair dismissal and disablity discrimination against her employer, Richmondshire District Council, obtaining a settlement pay out in March 2013 of £558,868.66.
Richmondshire District Council agreed the settlement to Mrs Jean Thacker, of Newport South Wales, a 62 year old residential care warden.
Mrs Thacker had been employed as a live-in warden at sheltered accommodation Noels Court in Catterick, Richmondshire since 2001. In October 2010 she was suspended from duties when a member of the public had alleged she had persuaded his elderly bother, a resident looked after by Mrs Thacker, to set up a bank account to facilitate her stealing money from him.
Although there was no evidence to support this allegation, it set in course a train of events by which Mrs Thacker was banned from speaking to any residents or colleagues, investigated by the police, barred from her own flat and forced to move in with her elderly parents in Newport, South Wales.
After months of delay and waiting for her name to be cleared, in July 2011 the police confirmed they were dropping their investigation, confirming that no bank account ever existed and that they were taking no further action. But it took until a year after the original suspension for the Council to complete its own disciplinary processes and to dismiss the allegations against Mrs Thacker.
Innocent but still suspended
Even then, however, Mrs Thacker remained barred from her Council home. In the absence of any support or comment from the Council, except to say she was subject to a disciplinary investigation, rumours and suspicion had filled the vacuum at Noels Court. There the elderly residents had been encouraged by the resident’s brother not to trust Mrs Thacker and to sign a petition against her return. The Council did nothing to support Mrs Thacker against such action or those allegations.
Disturbingly, more than 9 months before its investigation was concluded, senior officers and members of the Council’s HR team had met and already decided that Mrs Thacker was, on balance of probabilities, guilty of theft. This was before the Council had even interviewed Mrs Thacker or even told her details of the allegations against her.
When Mrs Thacker discovered that shocking fact, she sought a personal acknowledgement from the Council’s assistant director that the allegations were not true. Regrettably, the Council failed to take the reasonable step of giving that acknowledgment and wrote nothing further than that the allegation was ‘not proven’
Unfortunately, 16 months of suspension and continued accusations had taken their toll and, without any counselling support, by now Mrs Thacker was suffering from severe depression. As her health could not improve while the Council failed properly to acknowledge her innocence, Mrs Thacker could cope no longer and in March 2012 she resigned claiming constructive dismissal.
Mrs Thacker’s solicitor, Stephen Jackson of Cardiff and Newport specialist firm Jackson Osborne Employment Lawyers, explained how he saw the case:
“I was astounded at the lack of evidence and the intransigence shown by senior management at the council. I recognised that the council’s failure formally to acknowledge her innocence was, in terms of the Equality Act 2010, a failure to make ‘a reasonable adjustment’ and accordingly would be viewed as an act of disability discrimination. The size of the settlement reflects a loss of career and accommodation potentially to age 75.”
Referring to the settlement, Mrs Thacker said:
“I would have preferred an apology and acceptance at least a year ago, to recover my health, my home and my friends. I will look on this settlement as the apology I was due. I cannot thank Stephen Jackson enough. The council fought hard right to the end but Stephen was just on top of everything. He was just brilliant.”