£500,000 settlement for false allegation of theft

22 July 2013

 

Jean Thacker was employed as a part-time live-in residential care warden at sheltered accommodation run by Richmondshire District Council. She was suspended from duty after being accused of persuading an elderly resident at the accommodation to set up a bank account which enabled her to steal money from him.

Although there was no evidence to support the allegation, Mrs Thacker was banned from speaking to residents or colleagues, investigated by the police and barred from her Council accommodation.

The police dropped the investigation nine months later, stating that no bank account had ever existed and that no action would be taken. It then took a further seven months for the Council to complete its own investigation and dismiss the allegations against Thacker. Even then, Mrs Thacker remained barred from her Council accommodation.

Mrs Thacker discovered that, more than nine months before its own investigation was concluded, the Council’s HR team had met and had already decided she was, on the balance of probabilities, guilty of theft.

The 16-month process caused Mrs Thacker to suffer from severe depression and, because of this disability, she was unable to cope with the Council’s failure to acknowledge her innocence. She therefore resigned, claiming that the Council’s treatment was constructive dismissal.

After the case was heard by an Employment Tribunal, Mrs Thacker received a settlement of £558,868.66 for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Comment

This was a classic and costly ‘knee-jerk’ case where the Council paid too much attention to its duties to its residents and not enough to its responsibilities to its employee.

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