Member wins compensation for disability discrimination

19 Dec 2019

A Prospect member who worked for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has won compensation for disability discrimination.

Penny Jackson speaking at Prospect’s public services conference earlier this year

Penny Jackson settled her disability discrimination case shortly before the start of a four-day tribunal hearing.

Penny had worked for the Defence, Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL), an agency of the MOD, since 2012. She had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

She applied for a new role within MOD. To be considered for the role she had to sit and pass the online Civil Service Situational Judgment Test (SJT).

She failed the test, despite having been encouraged to apply by the managers and demonstrating very strong experience and knowledge relevant to the job.

There was no successful candidate so the job was re-advertised.

The MOD was not prepared to waive the SJT for Penny. She sought advice from Prospect negotiator, Nik Males, and raised a grievance.

Nik argued the nature of the test made it more difficult for people like Penny with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and that there were less discriminatory ways of assessing suitability.

Penny and Nik argued that reasonable adjustments should have been offered, such as a narrative application to go forward for interview.

Penny decided to leave MOD altogether and found a new job in the private sector.

Prospect legal officer, Linda Sohawon, represented Penny in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal, contending that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments and had subjected her to discrimination arising from her disability.

To support the legal claim, Linda instructed a specialist psychologist to confirm that the SJT disadvantaged Penny because of her ASD.

The case was due to be heard from 4 to 7 November 2019, but was settled just a few days before.

Linda Sohawon said:

“Sadly we have seen a few similar cases against the MOD over recent years. In spite of changes to the test, we believe the current Situational Judgement Test continues to fail employees with Autistic Spectrum Disorder conditions.  We will continue to support members who fall foul of these sort of tests.”

Reflecting on the news Penny Jackson said:

“The support from Prospect was amazing. Not only were all legal costs covered, but they also arranged a psychologist’s assessment relating to the case.

“Being a Prospect member really does mean it is free to take cases forward, even the hidden costs are covered.”