SOCIAL WORKER TAKES COUNCIL TO COURT FOR DISCRIMINATION & WHISTLEBLOWING
Who am I?
My name is Maria Rooney and I have been a Social Worker for 21 years. I worked as a Children’s Social Worker for 12 years for Leicester City Council which was very important to me as I loved my job working with very vulnerable children and young people in care.
I have dedicated my life to working with vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and families for over 30 years and I am very passionate and committed to children’s rights.
In 2017 I started to suffer from menopause symptoms. These included fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, low mood, hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog and memory loss.
At the end of 2017, I eventually went off sick due to work-related stress as a result of management bullying, harassment and intimidation. Whilst I was off sick, I raised concerns about management bullying in the workplace.
I also raised serious safeguarding concerns about a CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) case which led to me officially whistleblowing where my managers became hostile towards me as a consequence.
When I returned to work, I was issued with a Formal Written Warning for being off sick by my new line manager which I tried to appeal to an all-male panel but unfortunately my appeal was unsuccessful.
Following the outcome of the appeal hearing, I felt forced to hand in my resignation due to severe stress, lack of management support and a hostile working environment.
I felt that I was being victimised and harassed after raising concerns in the workplace and my managers became even more hostile towards me as a result. On the day that I resigned I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression by my GP due to concerns in the workplace.
I felt very sad having to give up a job I loved after 12 years, and I also felt very guilty leaving all the children and young people that I was helping but I felt that nobody was listening to me or supporting me.
After I resigned, I approached my Union for help and advice regarding a potential constructive dismissal claim against my employer, but both the Union and their lawyers refused to support and represent me.
In January 2019, I submitted claims for constructive unfair dismissal (where I was forced to resign due to my employer’s conduct), sex and disability discrimination and harassment and victimisation but at a tribunal hearing in November 2019, a judge decided that my medical conditions of anxiety, depression and menopausal symptoms did not amount to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and were dismissed.
The judge also decided that my claim of sex discrimination had no reasonable prospect of success and was struck out. The judge also dismissed my claims of harassment and victimisation. I appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which is a high court in London.
At another tribunal hearing in November 2020, a judge refused my application to amend my claim to include a complaint of having suffered detriment by reason of making a protected disclosure. I appealed again.
In October 2021, His Honour Judge James Tayler (EAT) held that:
- The employment tribunal erred in law in holding that the claimant was not a disabled person.
- The employment tribunal erred in law in striking out the claimant’s discrimination claims without adequately analysing them and gave insufficient reasons with the result that the claimant could not know why the claims had been struck out.
- The employment tribunal erred in refusing the claimant’s application to amend to claim protected disclosure detriment, principally on the ground that such a claim would be out of time, without giving any consideration to the claimant’s explanation for the delay in making the application.
My case has now made legal history as it has resulted in the first ever ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal on whether menopause symptoms can amount to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act. My case has now set a legal precedent and become case law regarding menopause discrimination in the workplace and has been featured in the 10 most important employment law cases of 2021 and in the press:
Finally in March 2022, a new judge decided that at all material times, I was disabled within the meaning given by s.6 of the Equality Act 2010 by virtue of a combination of symptoms of the menopause associated with symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Unfortunately, there has been a considerable delay and lack of progress with my case which has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety.
Leicester City Council has repeatedly refused to engage in Judicial Mediation and has left me with no alternative but to fight my case on my own for the past three years. My union has also refused to fund my ongoing legal case.
What is the next step in my case?
I have a 14-day Final Hearing in October 2023 and I now have a new legal team who have kindly offered to take on my case which has come as a huge relief to me as I have been a ‘litigant in person’ (representing myself) for the past three years which has been very stressful, difficult and time consuming for me (especially on top of my menopause symptoms and looking after two young children too!)
I will be represented by the highly regarded discrimination barrister, Elaine Banton – Barrister – 7BR Barristers Chambers and Elizabeth McGlone of didlaw (a specialist employment and discrimination law firm). I am crowdfunding to pay for my legal fees for my Final Hearing and also to instruct an independent medical expert for a psychiatric personal injury claim too.
We need your support!
Please contribute and share this page with your friends, colleagues and family and donate to a very worthy cause so we can all make a difference for other people in the workplace and also in the Employment Tribunal system.
I would like to thank everybody who has reached out to me and believed in me and supported me.
Your encouragement and support has kept me going throughout this very stressful time for me and my family.
I would also like to give a special thank you to the three pro-bono barristers who helped me with my appeals – Katherine Apps (ELAAS rep) and Patrick Tomison and David E Grant (through Advocate).
I hope no other woman has to go through what I went through, and I want to see more support for women in their workplaces. I hope my case will inspire others and I want to advocate, educate and help other women going through similar experiences. I am now very passionate about women’s rights and worker’s rights due to my own experiences in the workplace and with the Employment Tribunal (ET) system. I would like to see more support and changes in the ET system regarding how claimants are treated, particularly Litigants in Person.
Thank you so much for anything that you are able to contribute and for sharing my Crowdfunder page.