Record disability discrimination payout for sacked gardener

A man with learning disabilities has won more than half a million pounds in compensation after being unfairly dismissed from his job as a gardener.

In what is believed to be a record payout for a disability discrimination case, the man, who does not want to be identified, was awarded £550,499 at an employment tribunal in Croydon last week.

The man, from south London, was one of 24 claimants who, through the GMB union, brought claims for unfair dismissal against their former employer, Lambethservice Team Limited. He and three of the other claimants also won their claims for disability discrimination. The total compensation awarded was more than £1.3m.

The claimants, some of whom had 40 years’ service, lost their gardening jobs in March 2004 as part of a redundancy programme by the company, which managed parks throughout the London borough of Lambeth under a contract with the council.

The tribunal found that Lambeth Serviceteam Limited had failed to adequately consult with the claimants considering their disabilities, and that it had breached its own equal opportunities procedures. The system for selecting which employees would be made redundant was weighted against disabled workers as it focused on whether staff could drive a car and absence levels.

GMB Lambeth branch secretary Bill Modlock said: “It was clear from the outset that management had no intention of consulting meaningfully with the workforce and GMB members were treated abysmally. I made it clear from the first meeting that the GMB would issue proceedings if management continued to railroad through the dismissals.”

In September 2006, Lambeth Serviceteam was bought by Veolia Environmental Services. The new company is still contracted by Lambeth Council.

A council spokesperson said: “Lambeth Council prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer and we expect our contractors to share and uphold these values. The management and equal opportunities practices of the new contractor meet with the council’s high standards.”

  • Community Care is campaigning for better life chances for people with learning disabilites, including in employment, as part of our A Life Like Any Other campaign.

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