• Monday, March 04, 2024

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Asthmatic solicitor wins £1.1m payout after dismissal

Gulnaz Raja, 37, successfully filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Starling Bank

Gulnaz Raja (Photo: LinkedIn)

By: Pramod Thomas

AN asthmatic attorney who lost her high-paying banking position due to illness-related absences and requests to work from home, has received a £1.1 million settlement.

Gulnaz Raja, 37, successfully filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Starling Bank, reported MailOnline.

She faced criticism from her demanding supervisor, Matt Newman, who highly valued employees working late in the office.

Unlike the bank’s “long hours culture,” Raja, who suffers from asthma, adhered to her contracted hours and typically arrived just five minutes before board meetings, in contrast to her boss’s 40-minute early arrival.

The central London court’s employment tribunal heard that Newman became increasingly impatient with Raja as her health declined, and she requested for remote work. Eventually, he terminated her from her £76,000 role as a deputy company secretary, declaring her “not a starling person.”

Last year, it was disclosed that Raja, who worked on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, consistently left work as per her contract, despite  Newman’s emphasis on long working hours.

Raja clarified that she couldn’t stay in the office beyond her contracted hours but would log on and work later in the evening. The tribunal noted instances when she worked extended hours from home.

Newman, who is also a solicitor, testified that she lacked ownership, her performance was satisfactory but not exceptional, and she failed to meet his expectations or take ownership of her role.

The tribunal also noted Newman’s dissatisfaction by November, stating that Raja displayed “no interest and aptitude” in the more complex aspects of her role, without specifying her shortcomings.

Now, Starling Bank and Newman have been ordered to pay Raja £540,000 for past and future loss of earnings, along with £15,000 for injury to feelings, plus interest, totaling £658,502.47 in compensation.

The tribunal’s ruling mandates the two respondents to pay a total of £1,145,386.31, considering the tax obligations Raja will incur.

Raja, a solicitor since 2010, began working at the bank in July 2019. Newman, who also held the position of chief administrative officer and company secretary, swiftly became dissatisfied with her performance, deeming it “acceptable but not dynamic.”

Raja informed the tribunal that she developed a cough due to the cold office air conditioning and requested to relocate her desk away from a vent.

The panel criticised the “total failure” to respond to messages about her health and the lack of concern or support, suggesting an intention to discourage sick leave and remote work.

The tribunal dismissed Raja’s other claims of unfair dismissal and victimisation.

Eastern Eye

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