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Perth and Kinross Council could face big payout after cancer sufferer’s dismissal

Perth and Kinross Council could face big payout after cancer sufferer’s dismissal

Perth and Kinross Council could be facing a six-figure bill after giving up its challenge against a cancer-suffering solicitor they unfairly dismissed.

The local authority has agreed to pay a sum understood to be in the region of £75,000 to Valerie Gauld of Birkhill in advance of a two-day employment tribunal settlement hearing due to start in Dundee.

They will also have to pay legal costs for the long-running case which they took as far as an employment appeals tribunal and cover the expense of sending staff to give evidence in the case.

Mrs Gauld, who is now 58, was sacked by the council in March 2011 after her work performance deteriorated when she became ill.

Following an employment tribunal hearing lasting 12 days, judge James Hendry ruled the council “went too far, too fast” in dismissing her for an irretrievable breakdown with her manager Linda Whiteford in the council’s legal department.

He also criticised the council for thinking it was a rare event for cancer patients to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We cannot understand how anyone can say that a condition that typically affects one in five people can come into such a category, or that the suggestion that because it manifested itself atypically disproves its existence,” his judgment stated.

Mrs Gauld was diagnosed with cancer in October 2008, a few months after starting her job and went off work for chemotherapy and other treatment.

The disease was life-threatening and the prognosis was initially poor. She became very anxious and frightened about her illness and the possible impact it might have on her and her family.

She was able to return to work on a phased basis but problems were noticed with her performance.

Her manager found her resistant to anyone else becoming involved in her work and found her tense and confrontational.

The issue escalated to a disciplinary hearing and her ultimate dismissal, which the tribunal ruled in January last year had been unfair.

The council’s request for a review of the original judgment was refused and it took its case to an appeal, which it also lost.

The hearing was due to decide her compensation but last week the council agreed to pay her an undisclosed sum.

By doing so they also avoided having to meet the costs of a further legal forum.

A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that our appeal against the original ruling was not successful and do not think it appropriate to comment any further.”

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