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Fife woman who lost an eye in attack was sacked after handing in “fit note”

Nina Munday from the Fife Centre for Equalities.
Nina Munday from the Fife Centre for Equalities.

A Fife woman who lost an eye in a sickening attack has been awarded compensation after facing discrimination at work.

Zara Sutherland, 25, was awarded nearly £18,000 after the Employment Tribunal judged she lost her job as a result of her disability.

She was dismissed after submitting a “fit note”, to sign her off work during her recovery, and telling her employer she was entitled to statutory sick pay.

The tribunal heard Kirkcaldy firm The Beach Beauty Limited told Ms Sutherland the next day her contract would be terminated.

In May last year, Ms Sutherland spent four hours in surgery as medics battled in vain to save her left eye following an altercation with her ex-partner during in which she was allegedly hit in the face with a glass.

She said the trauma she suffered was “exacerbated by losing my job.”

Ms Sutherland sought help from Fife Centre for Equalities (FCE).

She said: “Proceeding with an employment tribunal was the last thing I wanted to deal with.

“However, I am very grateful to Nina Munday, manager of FCE, for giving me the support and strength to right the wrong that was bestowed on me.”

She added: “I am thankful for the support my family has given me.

“Currently I am working part-time for a new employer as well as running my own business. Living with a new disability will have its challenges but I learn that, with the right support, I can continue to do my job well.”

According to the judgement, Ms Sutherland was told she was being dismissed because there were plans to “scale down” the business and the salon was looking to employ somebody full-time. The tribunal considered these statements to be contradictory.

The tribunal also found Ms Sutherland’s contract had been breached because she was dismissed without notice.

Beach Beauty Limited later said she had been dismissed because of complaints from clients.

However, the tribunal judgement said many of the alleged complaints had not been raised with Ms Sutherland and the firm had “more than enough time” to address them. There had also been no performance reviews.

Beach Beauty owner Keely Cooper said: “I’m saddened at what happened to Zara.

“The actions of one person on a drunken night out can have such a detrimental effect on so many lives and a business.”

Nina Munday, manager of FCE, said: “We commend the courage and strength of Zara for fighting against injustice.

“It could have been a completely different story if the employer had shown more compassion towards Zara and helped her to remain in employment.

“Employers should be aware that disabled employees are protected from discrimination arising from their disability – this is an area of the Equality Act 2010 that may not be well understood.”

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