Disabled teacher forced to quit job wins pay-out
A disabled teacher who resigned after she was moved to a classroom further from the staff room and toilets has been awarded a six-figure pay-out.
Leigh Lewis, who has polyarthritis – simultaneous inflammation of several joints – told an industrial tribunal in Leicester she became ill after being moved and resigned from Meadowvale Primary, in Market Harborough.
The 52-year-old, who is registered disabled, told the hearing the extra walking she had to do at the school in Meadowvale Road made her unable to carry on in her post.
Mrs Lewis took Leicestershire Education Authority (LEA) and the governors of Meadowvale to a tribunal, claiming she had been constructively dismissed and discriminated against because of her disability.
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After a seven-day hearing last year, tribunal chairman Christopher Goodchild has now ruled that Mrs Lewis was constructively unfairly dismissed.
He said: "The governors of Meadowvale Primary failed to make reasonable adjustments and are thereby in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
"But the claimant's claim of direct disability discrimination fails and is dismissed."
Mr Goodchild told the LEA it should carry out an audit of disabled staff at its schools and advised that the governors of Meadowvale have training with regard to disability laws.
Mrs Lewis, a mother-of-two, who lives in a village near Kibworth, told the hearing she had started at the primary school in 2002.
She said she had fulfilled a lifetime ambition by entering the profession and was voted teacher of the year by a local newspaper in 2003.
She was diagnosed with polyarthritis in 2004 and was off work for nearly six months.
When she returned, the head teacher at Meadowvale gave her a disabled parking space, allowed her to work part-time and to be in a classroom near to the staff room and toilets.
That changed when a new head teacher – Kerry Rodger – took over in 2009.
Mrs Lewis said she was moved to a classroom further from the toilets and staff room, despite her warnings about the possible effect on her health.
Mrs Lewis became ill and resigned in September 2010.
Ms Rodger told the hearing she did what she could to accommodate Mrs Lewis and disputed that she had been unfairly dismissed.
After the hearing, Mrs Lewis said: "It is a great feeling to have won.
"It was never really about the money, I just felt that I had been very badly treated and did not want to let it pass by.
"It is very gratifying that the chairman asked the local authority to ensure the governors are properly trained in terms of the needs and requirements of disabled teachers."
After the ruling, a county council spokesman said: "This case relates to a school matter and names Leicestershire County Council as, technically, we are the employer.
"Day-to-day management of staff is the responsibility of the head teacher and the governing body and the council has very few powers to intervene in this.
"Following the hearing, the council is updating its records of disabled workers at schools and is advising the governing body at Meadowdale to undergo training."
David Scott, chairman of governors at Meadowvale, said: "While the governors were not involved in the tribunal proceedings we are disappointed with the findings as we take the subject of equality extremely seriously.
"For the benefit of all concerned and most importantly the children of Meadowvale, I hope that we can now all move on and I wish Mrs Lewis every success in the future."
Ms Rodger declined to comment
Mrs Lewis is teaching part-time at another primary school.