Railway worker's £18,000 for 'unfair treatment'

RAILWAY worker Bob Mallett, from Littlehampton, has been awarded almost £18,000 by an industrial tribunal, which ruled he had been unfairly dismissed for a temporary disability.

Mr Mallett, 58, had worked on the railways for more than 20 years when train operator Southern sacked him from his post as station supervisor at Horsham in September, 2003.

He had been receiving treatment for depression, but at the time of his dismissal was making good progress and was expected to make a full recovery.

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The tribunal, which announced its decision on Thursday, had been told at a previous hearing in May that a Southern manager labelled Mr Mallett a "dinosaur".

Mr Mallett, the tribunal concluded, was disabled at the time, because of his depression, and the train operator had discriminated against him and unfairly dismissed him on the grounds of his disability.

Law firm Morrish and Co and Mr Mallett's union, the Transport and Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), fought his case at the tribunal.

Speaking after last week's hearing, Mr Mallett, a leader with 7th Littlehampton Air Scouts, said: "I was feeling so down and wretched when I was depressed I couldn't make sense of things. But the medical officer and psychologist reassured me; the treatment was going well and I was feeling more positive.

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"Then, when Southern ignored their advice about my recovery and sacked me, it dragged me right down and made me feel completely worthless.

"I'd reached a high grade at work and was long-serving (hence the 'dinosaur' label), so this was the perfect excuse to get rid of me and bring in someone new and cheaper.

"I realised they'd already decided that's what they wanted and had just been going through the motions with the medical officer.

"I can't say how thankful I am that TSSA and Morrish and Co have supported me through this horrible time and I'm really pleased with the tribunal result. Compensation is also a help, as my new salary is around a 20 per cent less than when I was at the higher grade with Southern, but this is absolutely not about making money, it's about fair play and Southern have treated me really badly."

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David Sorensen, of Morrish and Co, said: "According to the tribunal, the decision to dismiss Mr Mallett was 'fatally flawed', as Mr Mallett was predicted by the company's own medical expert to make a full and speedy recovery from his illness.

"As well as failing to investigate the medical position correctly and to consider alternative employment for him sufficiently, it was also found that Southern had not spelled out to him that his job was at risk or that he was likely to be dismissed before they actually did it."

Now happily back in the industry with South West Trains, Mr Mallett has received an employee of the month award and been praised by a senior manager for dealing effectively with rowdy, litter-throwing youths.

As well as his voluntary work with the Scouts, he pilots his own hovercraft in his spare time.

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A spokesman for Southern said: "Southern recognises that in the case of Mr Mallett that more might have been done at the time to help him through his illness. The company fully accepts the outcome of the tribunal.

"However, we are keen to stress that Southern has in place a number of workplace initiatives which provide an environment where staff are listened to and feel valued. We will continue to make it a priority to take into account the needs of every member of the Southern team."

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