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Inaccurate advice from former solicitors left deaf woman seemingly without hope of bringing a disability discrimination claim

Employment barrister at Leigh Day successfully applies for permission for disability discrimination case to be heard

Posted on 30 January 2012

If at first you don’t succeed…..Leigh Day’s specialist employment lawyer Elizabeth George is acting for Mrs Shone in her claim of disability discrimination against an employment agency which dismissed her back in January 2009 because her voice sounded “funny” when she spoke over the tannoy system.

Mrs Shone, profoundly deaf in both ears since birth, first brought her claim in April 2009.  One week before it was due to be heard in early 2010, the agency, relying on a Court of Appeal case (Muschett v HM Prison Service [2010] IRLR 451) told Mrs Shone that she must withdraw her claim against them because, as an agency worker, she did not fall within any of the categories of workers protected by the discrimination legislation. Her then lawyers advised Mrs Shone that this was correct: her claim couldn’t succeed. Faced with having to pay the agency’s legal costs and no backing from her legal insurer, Mrs Shone did what any sensible person would do in the circumstances and withdrew her claim.

One and half years later, unable to accept that his wife could be treated so badly yet the law didn’t protect her, Mr Shone contacted Elizabeth George at employment law solicitors Leigh Day to ask if there was anything to be done. Elizabeth advised that the advice the couple had been given was simply wrong.  She re-issued the original claim for Mrs Shone, and argued that although it was now three years since the discriminatory dismissal (the normal time limit to bring the claim is three months) it was just and equitable to extend time and allow Mrs Shone to have her case heard. Last week, Employment Judge Slater at Manchester Employment Tribunal, agreed.  The case will now (finally) go to a full hearing in August this year.  

Having erroneously relied on the Muschett case as providing an unassailable defence to Mrs Shone’s claim, the agency’s lawyers forgot a basic rule: when a claim is withdrawn you must apply to the tribunal to have it dismissed.  Had they done that Mrs Shone could not have re-issued a second claim on the same facts. 

Specialist employment lawyers

The team of specialist employment and discrimination lawyers at Leigh Day has experience in bringing all types of employment discrimination claims, both in the public and private sector, and with individual  and multi-party claims.  Partner Camilla Palmer represented journalist Miriam O’Reilly in her claim against the BBC for sex and age discrimination. The team is also representing deaf diplomat Jane Cordell in her disability discrimination claim against the Foreign Office and represented Danniella McClain, who was made redundant a few days after telling her manager she was pregnant, in her successful employment tribunal claim. Danniella’s case was featured by the Guardian in an article, Pregnant? Wait till the boss hears.
Our employment solicitors have secured compensation for people bringing equal pay claims, sex discrimination claims, race discrimination claims and disability discrimination claims and regularly advises on claims for compensation relating to bullying at work, stress at work, whistle-blowing, maternity and paternity, and unfair dismissal.

Our employment solicitors are recognised by the two main legal directories, Legal 500 and Chambers guide to the legal profession, as being experts in their field with partner Camilla Palmer being described as being ‘probably the leading discrimination solicitor in the country’ and partner Chris Benson as  ‘an outstanding lawyer, combining enthusiasm, innovation, energy and humour’.  Leigh Day employment specialists have successfully represented a number of senior executives in their employment claims and also have experience of acting for groups of clients with similar claims.  The team is expert in advising on compromise agreements. Elizabeth George was picked as ‘lawyer of the week’ by the Times in June 2010 after bringing a successful claim against the Ministry of Defence on behalf of a pregnant RAF officer whose promotion prospects were delayed.