Former Droitwich police woman loses legal claim for disability discrimination

A FORMER Droitwich policewoman who was refused a two year career break by West Midlands Police after complaining of bullying and suffering from ME, has lost a legal claim for disability discrimination against the force.

Mother-of-two Mrs Kiele Doyle, of Waterside, Droitwich, whose husband was also a policeman, had been a member of the Birmingham South West Partnership police team working 30 hour a week shifts as a young person’s officer.

At one stage Mrs Doyle was said to have had police approval to run a “hobby” website, with her husband, involving advertising space for a camper van-style business.

She had accused West Midlands Police, at a previous Birmingham Employment Tribunal hearing, of unfavourable treatment by failing to make adjustments to help her cope with her ME, sometimes known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

She also alleged she had been bullied by a police sergeant and complained about being refused a two year career break.

The police opposed Mrs Doyle’s claims and denied the disability discrimination and bullying allegations.

She was off ill for a time and complained she had suffered detriment as a result of eventually resigning from the force.

Mrs Doyle was told at a previous tribunal hearing that a decision would be made at a later date.

Now tribunal judge Mr Alan McCarry has rejected her compensation claim.

Mr McCarry said Mrs Doyle had been diagnosed as suffering from ME and that the police occupational health department had said she would be well enough to return to work by doing a total of 12 hours in three, four hour shifts.

But he said she felt she could not cope, went on further sick leave and never returned to work.

Mr McCarry said Mrs Doyle had told the tribunal she wanted the two year break to give herself plenty of rest without the worry of having to return to work, potentially hindering her recovery. She also wanted more “quality time” with her children, he said.

“We have no doubt that the overwhelmingly predominant reason for the requested break in the claimant’s mind was her wish to distance herself from the police force because she thought further contact would not assist, and may well have hindered, her recovery,” said Mr McCarry.

But he said the police considered the request for a two year break to be excessive and he went on to say that the tribunal had considerable doubt as to whether the refusal of the career break was the real and effective reason for Mrs Doyle’s resignation.

“The mere fact the employer has disagreed with an employee and refused a request in the justifiable exercise of discretion cannot, by that fact alone, constitute unfavourable treatment of the act,” said Mr McCarry. Mrs Doyle said she had requested a two year career break.

Chief Inspector Daniel Delaney, of Brierley Hill Police Station, who is the crime manager at Dudley, told the tribunal, however, that the career break request was refused and that she had not appealed against the decision.

Mrs Doyle later resigned from the force after she had been off ill.

The tribunal was told that her sick notes did not cover all the time she was off work.

Supt Joanna Smallwood, of Bournville Police Station, said at the time she requested the two year break she alleged she was being bullied by a police sergeant.

“She said she wanted to spend more time with her children,” said Supt Smallwood. “But she said she was unsure when she would be fit enough to return to her duties.”

Supt Smallwood said a request for a two year career was extremely rare.

During cross examination, Mr Sean O’Brien told Mrs Doyle the police wanted her to return to duty as soon as she could.

But Mrs Doyle disagreed and alleged they did not want her back.

Mrs Doyle eventually broke down and wept and tribunal judge Mr Alan McCarry adjourned the hearing for a brief spell.

The hearing has been listed for several days and a decision is expected at a later date.

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