Perth and Kinross Council has been ordered to pay almost £80,000 to a teacher who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and was unfairly dismissed.
An employment tribunal ruled that John Fotheringham, of Dunblane, was discriminated against by the council because of his disability and was entitled to receive compensation.
The tribunal calculated that this should amount to £78,417 to include sums for his unfair dismissal, loss of earnings, injury to his feelings and interest.
Mr Fotheringham had changed career after working in financial services and taught design, engineering and technology, and business education.
He became fully registered as a teacher in 2003 and held posts at Perth Academy, Loch Leven Community Campus and St John’s Academy.
He had interpersonal difficulties with pupils, staff and management at Perth Academy and suffered stress and depression, which led to his absence.
There were complaints about him adopting a rigid, rules-based attitude where other teachers might have shown more flexibility. He believed that he was taking appropriate steps to deal with poor behaviour and that other teachers were not following the rules.
Mr Fotheringham found it stressful to be the subject of complaints when he felt he was in the right.
At the time he went off, his professional performance was to be investigated. The problems continued when he returned and the council placed him under medical suspension.
He was struggling to keep the attention of pupils and he preferred to spend his out-of-class time on his own and not with colleagues.
Other teachers also reported suffering stress-related absence related to their relationships with Mr Fotheringham.
After a year’s medical suspension he was transferred to Loch Leven campus but more issues arose with his teaching and he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a condition in the autism spectrum that affects social interaction.
Mr Fotheringham became surplus to requirements in school and the situation escalated until his contract was ended in 2011.
The tribunal ruled that he had been dismissed because a view was taken that he was not capable of carrying out a teacher’s role to the standard required. This had come about because of stereotypical thinking after it had been found out that he had Asperger’s, and this was discrimination, said the tribunal.
The council initially appealed against the unfair dismissal judgement but abandoned proceedings and the case then continued in private to decide on the remedy.
Mr Fotheringham, who holds a BSc in mechanical engineering and was a design engineer with Rolls-Royce until 1993, is retraining as a blacksmith.
A spokeswoman for the authority said: “The council stands by the extensive efforts to address Mr Fotheringham’s difficulties during the time he was employed with us. It was, therefore, disappointing that the employment tribunal held that additional measures over and above those that the council had already put in place should have been considered.
“As an employer, we remain committed to providing support to all of our employeesto enable them to do the job they are paid to do. However, as a responsible local authority, we must always ensure that the duty of care we have for pupils is a priority, as is an appropriate learning environment.”