£4.6m in damages awarded to former employee of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

5 mins

Posted on 19 Mar 2024

£4.6m in damages awarded to former employee of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Doyle Clayton client, Rachael Wright-Turner, has been awarded £4.6m in damages, by an Employment Tribunal, after suing her former employer, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, for disability discrimination. This is believed to be one of the highest, and potentially the highest, figure for a judgment of this kind.

A Tribunal found in her favour in 2021, and also found that the Council’s officers had given untrue evidence to the Tribunal. The matter was then held over for a separate hearing to determine the damages award. The judgment on that decision was handed down on 13 March 2024, and awarded Ms Wright-Turner a total of £4,580,577.39.

Formerly the Director of Public Service Reform at Hammersmith and Fulham, the Tribunal heard that Ms Wright-Turner suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of her work for a previous employer, spearheading the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In 2021, the Tribunal concluded that the Council’s discrimination on the basis of her PTSD was the reason for her dismissal, and that senior officers at Hammersmith and Fulham, including Chief Executive Kim Dero, had “acted to deliberately mislead” her. The Tribunal also found that Council officers had been dishonest in their evidence to the Tribunal, and that in giving evidence on oath, Ms Dero and Hammersmith and Fulham’s Interim Director for Corporate Services, Mark Grimley, had “sought to rely on facts which they knew to be untrue”. Additionally, it found that the Council’s Chief Executive, its Interim Head of Corporate Services, its Strategic Director of Governance and Finance and Section 151 Officer, and the Council’s Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, were all involved in a deliberate deception.

At the remedy hearing in January 2024, the Tribunal heard that the effects of the dismissal on Ms Wright-Turner had been extremely severe. In the period since her dismissal, her health had been damaged so significantly as to make it likely that she would never work again; expert evidence to this effect, and that the reason for this was Hammersmith and Fulham’s unlawful conduct, was adduced by Ms Wright-Turner. In addition, her marriage had ended, and repossession proceedings had been started because she had been unable to pay mortgage arrears which had arisen as a consequence of her lack of income. Although the judgment making the award has been handed down, the reasons behind the award are still awaited.

Exemplary damages against Hammersmith and Fulham were also awarded. This is only available against “servants of the government”, and are the only category of damages available to an Employment Tribunal which has the express purpose of punishing conduct – that which is “oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional” - rather than merely compensating a victim for their loss. Awards for exemplary damages are extremely rare and it is thought that this is the first example of their use by any Employment Tribunal in at least a decade, and potentially longer.

Doyle Clayton partner Peter Daly, who acted for Ms Wright-Turner, said:

“This is one of the largest awards ever made by an Employment Tribunal. It reflects both the scale of what Rachael has suffered, and the seriousness of the unlawful conduct by her former employer. “The award of exemplary damages is particularly noteworthy and it is indicative that Hammersmith and Fulham’s conduct fell egregiously below any acceptable standard for a public authority.

“Rachael was an extremely senior and successful public servant, on a career path that had every chance of taking her to the very top of her profession. That possibility was denied her by the unlawful actions of Hammersmith and Fulham, which were catastrophic for Rachael personally as well as professionally.

“While the size of the award is eye catching, it highlights the scale of what Rachael has suffered. We are pleased to have been able to secure this for her, but, in Rachael’s own words, “I’d rather none of this had ever happened and I had just been allowed to do a job that I loved. I would give back every penny if it meant I could work again.”

Rachael Wright-Turner said:

“Because of what Hammersmith and Fulham have done to me, I have lost nearly everything. Despite the size of the award, I don’t know that I can ever recover. But I am pleased that after six years of litigation, during which they fought me every step of the way, Hammersmith and Fulham has finally been held to account.

“The actions of the LBHF leadership are now plain for all to see. I hope that there will be a proper inquiry into what has been a scandalous misuse of public money – in the damages that have been awarded, but also in the costs incurred by six years of litigation, in which Hammersmith and Fulham engaged one of the most expensive law firms in London. Those who discriminated against me have had their actions drawn into the light, but those who forced this case to go the distance and who have spent all this public money have not had any scrutiny at all. I hope that this scrutiny will now follow.

“I am extremely grateful to my barrister Ben Collins KC who has been at my side throughout: I couldn’t have asked for any more in a barrister. I am also grateful to the team at Doyle Clayton: Peter Daly, Rose Smith, Olivia Geary and Hannah Davies.

“Most of all, I hope my case means that nobody ever has to go through anything like what I have been through.”

For further information on how our Employment team may be able to support you, please contact a member of the team directly, or complete an enquiry form, below.

Peter Daly

Peter is one of the UK's leading employment lawyers and specialises in advising individuals as well as organisations.

  • Partner
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Rose Smith

Rose is an employment and education lawyer. She has a track record in providing measured employment law advice, and is also part of Doyle Clayton’s renowned Education Team, providing advice to teachers, professors and schools.

  • Legal Director
  • T: +44 (0)20 7042 7206
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Hannah Davies

Hannah is an employment law associate in the firm’s City office.

  • Associate
  • T: +44 (0)20 7778 7242
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Olivia Geary

Olivia is a solicitor who advises employers and individuals on a full range of employment issues.

  • Solicitor
  • T: +44 (0)20 7778 7247
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