A former council employee has been awarded a settlement of more than half a million pounds following a claim of disability discrimination which arose from a false allegation of theft.

Jean Thacker was employed as a part-time residential care warden at a sheltered accommodation run by Richmondshire District Council. In October 2010 she was suspended from duty after she was accused of persuading an elderly resident at the accommodation to set up a bank account which enabled her to steal money from him.

Although there was no evidence to support the allegation, Thacker was banned from speaking to residents or colleagues, investigated by the police and barred from her own council accommodation.

In July 2011 the investigation was dropped by the police, who confirmed no bank account had existed and that no action would be taken. However, it took a further year for the council to complete its own investigation and dismiss the allegations against Thacker.

However, even after this point Thacker remained barred from her council home and the council failed to provide her with any further support. In addition, it was found that, more than nine months before its own investigation was concluded, the council’s HR team had met and already decided Thacker was, on balance of probabilities, guilty of theft. This was before Thacker had been interviewed or told the details of the allegations against her.

Upon discovering this, Thacker sought acknowledgement from the council’s assistant director that the allegations were untrue. The council, however, failed to take the reasonable step of providing that acknowledgment and only wrote that the allegation was “not proven”.

The 16-month process caused Thacker to suffer from the disability of severe depression. Because of this, Thacker could not cope with her employer’s failure to acknowledge her innocence and in March 2012, on the advice of her solicitor, she resigned claiming constructive dismissal.

Consequently, she was awarded £558,868.66 at an employment tribunal.

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Council pays employee more than £500,000 for Disability Discrimination