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£4.5m discrimination award to female doctor 'highest for 45 years'

16 December 2011

An award of almost £4.5m to a female hospital consultant by a Leeds employment tribunal has been described as the “highest for 45 years”.

Dr Eva Michalak claimed damages of more than £9m. The same tribunal found last year that she was the victim of sex and race discrimination and had been unfairly dismissed.

Paul Daniels, partner at Russell Jones & Walker, said: “The award is so high due to a ‘perfect storm’ of factors including a serious case of sex and race discrimination, the claimant suffering a devastating psychiatric illness, preventing her from ever working again, and even requiring a personal carer, together with the loss of a very well-paid medical job and pension at a relatively young age.

“Every case turns on its own facts but this shows that very large awards for discrimination are possible where a claimant suffers very high losses due to an employer’s conduct.”

The tribunal considered adding a 50 per cent uplift to Michalak’s award. Giving judgment on remedy in Michalak v the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust (case no. 1810815/2008), employment judge Burton said the trust “embarked upon a campaign against the claimant which was designed not only to get rid of her, but, in the process, to isolate her and to prevent all the procedures which should have had the effect of subjecting their actions to external scrutiny from having that effect.

“One of those procedures was their own and the statutory grievance procedure.”

Judge Burton said that where a large employer “deliberately for their own purposes” refused to comply with the statutory grievance procedure, circumstances might justify the maximum uplift.

However, the judge said that requiring the NHS trust to pay an additional £3m was “wholly disproportionate and would not command public respect”.

Earlier Judge Burton said the tribunal had been “positively outraged at the way this employer has behaved”.

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