Bullied NHS employee given fake task as a prank awarded £10,000March 9th 2021
An NHS employee has been awarded nearly £10,000 after she was subjected to a series of cruel and bullying tricks by her co-workers.
Joanne Stronach Director and Head of Employment & HR reports.
Carol Hurley began work as a deputy finance business partner for East Sussex NHS Trust in October 2016.
The following summer she received a ‘joke’ email from her line manager Stella Armstrong to ‘remind’ her that she was expected to deliver a three-hour presentation the next day to the senior management team.
The email also had a thread including a message from another senior manager to add to its plausibility.
The rest of the office team was in on the joke, but Hurley was convinced that she had to give a presentation.
She set aside urgent work to begin preparing and was expecting to have to go home and work on it throughout the night.
Half an hour later Hurley received another email from Armstrong that read: ““Only joshing!!!! Have a great day.”
The prank caused Hurley great stress, at a time when she was already struggling with a heavy workload, having covered the work of another colleague who had left, and training a new member of staff.
Hurley attempted to take the joke in good part and continued to try to manage her workload.
Shortly afterwards, she was made the head of a newly formed central finance team. However, her new team members were unhappy with the changes and became “difficult”.
Hurley contacted her trade union to report problems of bullying at work. She met with the new department’s manager, Alex Graham, and raised the prank email incident.
The following day, Hurley’s colleagues continued to behave badly towards her by not including her in drinks orders for the team, and more seriously tampering with data she had entered into spreadsheets.
She met again with Graham, who put together an action plan of support and reminded the staff of the expected standards. She also met with Armstrong but did not receive the notes from the meeting for a month, and when she did, she felt they were critical of her for being ‘overwhelmed by the workload’.
Hurley was signed off sick and when she returned, the contents of her desk and drawers had been removed, with nobody owning up to doing it. A folder she created on the office shared drive was also anonymously moved or deleted.
Meanwhile, Hurley received a job offer from her former employers and accepted it.
She claimed her treatment amounted to unfair dismissal and took the case to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in her favour.
Employment Judge Fowell said that following the email prank Hurley would have been entitled to resign, and that there was “no possible justification for doing that to a member of staff in any circumstances”.
Hurley was awarded £9,890.60 for previous and future loss of earnings.
If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.