A disabled woman sacked by a council from her temporary post after taking time off with depression has won an employment tribunal case – after a three-year legal battle – that should help other agency workers fight discrimination.
Camden council in north London had tried to argue that Corrie Pegg had no right to protection from disability discrimination laws because of the way she had been signed up through a recruitment agency as a contract worker.
But with the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Pegg won an appeal that should clarify the law for other agency workers.
An employment appeal tribunal ruled in April that the council did owe her legal duties under the Disability Discrimination Act, which was still in force at the time she was sacked from her job as a school travel planning officer.
Following that appeal win she finally had her case heard by an employment tribunal last month.
Pegg had had depression since 2003 and had managed her condition well, but she became unwell after a series of bereavements.
After seeking treatment in her own time, she spent a week in a mental health respite centre in June 2009.
Two months later, she was admitted to hospital, and then received visits at home from the community mental health team.
She was told 12 days later over the telephone that she had been sacked because of poor attendance and punctuality.
She later obtained information from the council, under the Data Protection Act, that revealed her health had been discussed in emails with staff members who had no need to know about it. She also suspected that her mental health had become the subject of office gossip.
Last month, an employment tribunal concluded that the council had failed to make the necessary reasonable adjustments for her mental health condition, and that she had been subject to harassment through internal emails discussing her mental health.
The level of compensation will be set at a hearing in February.
An EHRC spokeswoman said: “This case could start to plug the current and worrying gap in the law in respect of agency workers’ rights.
“There was an urgent need to be able to clarify the legal position of agency workers with regard to discrimination claims as so many people are affected and this case has now gone some way towards achieving that.”
A Camden council spokesman said: “All parties involved in this case are currently awaiting the written reasons for this ruling. The council will be in a position to respond… once these reasons are received.”