An employee with breast cancer wins £47,700 in a harassment claim

A personal assistant has won £47,700 in compensation after a tribunal ruled that her boss harassed and discriminated against her following her breast cancer diagnosis.

Eimear Coghlan, PA to the Hideaways Club’s chief executive, Poonam Dhawan-Leach, learned she had an aggressive form of breast cancer in December 2014.

Whilst initially treated with “sympathy and concern”, relations between Coghlan and her boss deteriorated as she needed to attend an increasing number of medical appointments.

Coghlan had been allowed to work flexibly following her diagnosis, including some working from home if she felt ill, but this changed when her boss complained about her productivity, claiming that she’d “not done a single day’s work” in three months since her diagnosis.

The treatment of Coghlan was poor.

Some examples of the harassment included her having to produce letters from her doctors confirming that she was well enough to work, having to take days off as sick leave, on reduced pay, if she had a medical appointment and in an email to Coghlan, the chief exec stated that she was unwilling to compromise everything “just so I can be kind and sensitive to one individual who is very, unfortunately, going through an extremely difficult personal health situation”.

Coghlan was eventually signed off work with stress due to the treatment of her boss, which a colleague described as “hostile, spiteful and aggressive”.

The tribunal found that Coghlan, who resigned in September 2015, had suffered disability discrimination, harassment, and injury to feelings.

Describing Dhawan-Leach as a “very demanding manager”, the Judge rejected the company’s claims that they were acting in Coghlan’s best interests and supported the outcome saying that the demands for medical letters “violated Coghlan’s dignity” and the company’s policy on taking sick leave for medical appointments was “irrational”.