A woman who claims she was bullied by her bosses at a Tayside veterinary clinic has won the right to take the case to a tribunal.
Gemma Smith, an employee of the Abbey Veterinarian Clinic in Arbroath, will take Independent Vetcare Ltd to task over claims her boss discriminated against her because of her depression – which has been ruled as a disability under equality law.
Miss Smith told a Dundee employment tribunal she had been “harassed” by her manager Richard Matossian throughout 2018, alleging that he made disparaging comments about her mental health.
Her attempts to flag up concerns with senior staff at Independent Vetcare were met with a suspension over claims that she had misappropriated company cash – charges that were later dropped.
Employment Judge Alexander Kemp was told that, during an extended period of sick leave in spring 2018, she was subjected to comments by Mr Matossian that targeted her disability, and that after she returned to work that June he continued to harass her.
In July, Miss Smith contacted human resources at Independent Vetcare Ltd, the national firm that runs the Abbey Clinic, to report “a number of things that I am unhappy with, mainly some comments towards myself”.
However, it is alleged HR staff failed to follow up with Miss Smith – and went on to suspend her in August 2018 over allegations that cash had gone missing from the clinic.
She remained suspended from her job under suspicion of misappropriating company money until July last year, when the allegations were dropped.
Alan Matthew, Miss Smith’s solicitor, provided a letter to the tribunal claiming that she had experienced a deterioration in her mental health since, and that the entire investigation had been conducted out of “spite”.
Lawyers for Independent Vetcare tried to separate the claims of discrimination from the suspension as “completely distinct”.
However, Mr Kemp concluded that Miss Smith’s evidence had been “clear and candid” – and accepted her claim that the discrimination and suspension could have been linked.
In a summary, he wrote: “The claimant seeks to argue that the commencement of disciplinary proceedings against her was because she was a disabled person, and was harassment.
“That is not an easy case to pursue successfully, but I consider that there is sufficient (evidence) to provide the link between that allegation, and the earlier allegations that are made, in a manner that meets the statutory provision as explained in authority as set out above.
“At this stage I accept that what the claimant says is both credible and reliable, and that what she alleges will be proved in evidence later, when the respondent has the opportunity of calling its own evidence.”
Independent Vetcare did not respond to a request for comment. Miss Smith could not be reached for comment.