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Council told to reinstate legal secretary more than two years after dismissal

A tribunal has told a council to reinstate a legal secretary two-and-a-half years after she was dismissed.

The London Central Employment Tribunal heard that Ms C Ramos Alvarez started working for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a legal secretary in August 2003. From 2010 onwards, she was reprimanded on several occasions for complaining about her colleagues to other co-workers, behaviour that eventually led to written warnings. Ramos Alvarez also raised a number of formal complaints about individuals she worked with, particularly those in the business support unit.

In April 2013, Kensington and Chelsea’s legal services were merged with those of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, reducing the number of legal secretaries required. Ramos Alvarez applied for one of the positions but was not successful and was selected for redundancy.

It then transpired that the weighting of the selection criteria had been miscalculated and Ramos Alvarez, as one of the top three candidates when correctly scored, should have been retained. The management team decided the fairest course of action would be to re-interview Ramos Alvarez, along with one other candidate who had been retained but had scored lower than her.

Ramos Alvarez objected to this and instead appealed against her redundancy decision. Although the council upheld the appeal, it still went ahead with the redundancy and Ramos Alvarez was dismissed in December 2014.

The legal secretary brought a claim for unfair dismissal. Kensington and Chelsea conceded that it had unfairly dismissed Ramos Alvarez and agreed that she should be awarded £26,508.

However, she argued that she should be reinstated in her job or, failing that, reengaged with the employer in some other capacity. Kensington and Chelsea contended that neither of these would be practical, not only because her role no longer existed and no suitable vacancies were available, but also because the relationship of trust between the employee and the employer had been destroyed.

The tribunal ruled that, not only should the council reinstate the legal secretary as of 28 July 2017, it should also pay her a lump sum to reflect the wages she would have received, less the amount she received as redundancy payment, and restore all her pension rights and seniority.

In reaching the decision, Judge Harjit Grewal noted that taking on another legal secretary at the council was unlikely to lead to overstaffing or the need for redundancies, despite the restructure. Furthermore, Ramos Alvarez had raised a number of complaints about those she worked with long before she was made redundant but had continued to work alongside them anyway, indicating that the trust and confidence between the employer and employee had not been entirely destroyed.

Ramos Alvarez also initially filed claims for age and disability discrimination but these were withdrawn before being heard by the tribunal.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has considered the tribunal's findings and has lodged an appeal."

Added: 22-08-2017

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