RLK, a byword for sensitive management.
A firm which sacked a paralegal for poor performance while he was recovering from an operation for inflammatory bowel disease has agreed to pay him £35,000 in compensation.
RLK Solicitors, based in Birmingham, terminated Daniel Russell's employment at the end of an extended probationary period in 2017 after he collapsed and had to undergo emergency surgery.
After winning claims for disability related discrimination and failure to make adjustments in 2020, last month Russell decided to accept the firm's offer of £15,000 for injury to feelings and £20,000 for loss of earnings.
Russell told RollOnFriday he had been looking forward to testifying during the remedy hearing, but his barrister advised him to settle instead, and he agreed to forgo his opportunity to have his say in court about the impact of RLK's actions. "Taking the offer last month, I had to take a moment of contemplation which you might call 'therapy', or you might call 'loud therapy shouting into the abyss', because it didn't feel like it's what I wanted", said Russell.
But "it's been nearly five years since it happened" and now "all that pressure has come to an end", he said. "I can make my peace with it."
Two weeks after Russell started work at RLK, he began to suffer severe stomach pains which eventually forced him to take three days off sick.
When he returned, partners flagged issues with the time it was taking him to complete tasks and errors in his draft documents. Satish Jakhu, RLK's Managing Partner, said that in hindsight "it was a fair assumption to make" that Russell's performance was impeded by his illness, which Jakhu was not aware of at first.
In September 2017 Russell's condition deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital due to a risk to his life, and part of his bowel was removed during a seven hour operation. Days after being discharged, he was let go by RLK for poor performance.
Russell told RollOnFriday, "I'd never felt so low and so worthless in all my life. I'd been out of hospital for about a week and I couldn't really walk that well because I'd had my whole torso torn up - there's a scar that goes from my chest down to my pelvis". Then RLK's dismissal letter came through the letterbox. "I couldn't get up to go and get it so my mum brought it to me, and I read it and I couldn't speak".
The employment tribunal rejected RLK's contention that errors in Russell's work were not caused by his disability, ruling that he was "seriously impacted by his illness" for almost the entire time he was in employment, and the quality of his work "was bound to have been detrimentally affected by his disability".
Russell has now secured a training contract at another firm.
RLK did not respond to a request for comment.