Green Welly ‘cancer badge’ worker wins discrimination claim

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Bosses at Tyndrum’s Green Welly Stop have been forced to pay £10,000 to a former employee accused of wearing her cancer ‘as a badge’.

Amanda McCartney, 49, was a seasonal food and drinks  worker at the popular tourist stop between March and July last year when a lump, originally thought to have been caused by an ingrowing hair, was diagnosed as cancer.

An employment tribunal in Edinburgh found Ms McCartney had suffered disability discrimination over a period of six weeks and ordered Green Welly partners Mr E Robertson and Mrs F Robertson to pay the five-figure compensation sum for injuring her feelings.

The tribunal heard how workers at the A82 service station were ‘getting fed up’ with Ms McCartney talking about her cancer, were overheard saying ‘Is she still going on about it again?’ and that some of them were of the opinion she was ‘wearing cancer as a badge’. At no point were employees told by management to stop their ‘negative discussion’.

Ms McCartney had complained to her line manager  that she was ‘sick of people being rude, nasty and bullying’.

The tribunal heard of a personality clash with another employee which started at the hot food counter and was taken outside. During the argument, the employee told Ms McCartney she was a ‘liar’ about having cancer and said she (Ms McCartney) was ‘happy she had cancer’. Two managers witnessed it but took no action and the woman was later promoted by bosses. The tribunal found that the incident ‘violated her dignity’.

Ms McCartney’s partner, Ian Scott-Moncrieff, who also worked there, gave compelling evidence to the tribunal how she cried before going to work and did not want to go because of the hostile environment.

Her GP provided bosses with a statement for fitness for work which suggested ‘heavy loads are difficult given tumour site and size and  this work should not be carried out. Opportunity to sit when needed should be given’.

Her duties were amended two days after the note to clearing tables and placing dirty dishes onto trolleys but, due to the weight of those trolleys, Ms McCartney had increased contact with heavy loads and found her work more onerous than before. She had to take extra painkillers to complete her working day. She also had no time to sit down because her one-hour break ended up being split into 12 five-minute breaks.

The Green Welly’s defence solicitor said his clients accepted Ms McCartney had suffered harassment but added as a small business the respondents had been ‘consistently sympathetic’, making as many adjustments as they could. ‘The overarching evidence suggests that even though they were unable to do everything right, they were a caring employer trying to do their best,’ he said.

The tribunal accepted Ms McCartney’s evidence that the actions of the respondents from mid June to late July 2017 caused her considerable upset, which she felt caused her health to deteriorate. The tribunal also had regard that she had little choice but to take a day’s holiday to cover her hospital appointments.

On evidence the tribunal concluded the actions of the respondents between mid June to the end of July ‘created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment’ for Ms McCartney.

After the tribunal’s decision, Ms McCartney told The Oban Times she had been shocked to be diagnosed with the same illness as her mother, at the same age she was first diagnosed and just a couple of weeks short of the fifth anniversary of her death from cancer.

She described the discrimination she experienced as ‘a  vicious campaign’ to force her ‘to admit’ she was lying about being unwell.

‘I did not expect further vexatious accusations in court but the judge recognised that those six weeks were a living hell for me and found in my favour. I hope that the Green Welly Stop has recognised that the Highland hospitality that they demand of their staff should also be extended to incoming seasonal workers.’

Speaking to The Oban Times, Fiona Robertson of the Green Welly Stop said: ‘At the Green Welly Stop we pride ourselves on how we lead and manage our team. On this occasion our historically high standards slipped slightly and we will learn from this to ensure there is no repetition.

‘We are, of course, disappointed with the judgement, although we take some solace from the judge’s comments about the professionalism and honesty demonstrated by those present from our business.’