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Doctor awarded record £4.5 million for sex and race discrimination
Dr Eva Michalak took maternity leave after her appointment as a consultant physician at Pontefract General Infirmary in April 2002. After returning to work, Dr Michalak was the subject of sustained criticism and complaints, as well as allegations that she had bullied junior doctors. As a result of the criticism and allegations made against her, Dr Michalak was suspended in January 2006, and remained on suspension for an inordinately long period (approximately 16 months).
Disciplinary proceedings against Dr Michalak were eventually brought in May 2007, after what the Tribunal described as a, “lengthy and wholly unauthorised period of suspension”. Dr Michalak was, after another very long period of delay, dismissed in July 2008.
Leeds Employment Tribunal heard that senior members of staff had met in March 2003, when Dr Michalak was seven months pregnant, and had planned a campaign to terminate her employment. This plan/campaign included references to her competency, with particular regard to her Polish origins and medical training.
A medical expert told the Tribunal that, as a result of the plan/campaign waged against her, Dr Michalak had suffered “chronic and disabling” Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, enduring personality change, and persistent anxiety. Dr Michalak’s husband provided evidence that, for example, she was unable to accomplish even simple and basic tasks as a result of her condition.
In their judgment, the Tribunal said that: "as a consequence of [her] dismissal [Dr Michalak] has lost her role and status as a hospital consultant ... she is never going to return to work as a doctor".
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, the Trust’s medical director, a consultant physician, and the human resources manager were together ordered to pay £4,452,206.60 for race and sex discrimination against Dr Michalak. The bulk of the award was compensation for loss of earnings and pension. It included an award of exemplary damages and compensation for care and medical treatment, as well as significant awards for injury to feelings and psychiatric damage.
The Chief Executive of the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust made a public apology to Dr Michalak and said that the Trust would be considering the award.
This is far and away the largest compensation award made by a Tribunal. It exceeds a number of significant awards made in 2010, including £1.5m to Oksana Denysenko in her claim against Credit Suisse and £2.8m to Balbinder Chagger in his claim against Abbey National.
For further information on any of the points raised in this article, please contact a member of our employment team.