Woman claims unfair sacking
PUBLISHED: 11:37 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:09 06 May 2010
A WOMAN was sacked by Hertfordshire County Council for making her own workplace unsafe, it has been alleged. Long-serving employee Jean Thornhill, 44, of Stevenage had been determined that an enforced move of the office she shared with colleague Susy Good
A WOMAN was sacked by Hertfordshire County Council for making her own workplace unsafe, it has been alleged.
Long-serving employee Jean Thornhill, 44, of Stevenage had been determined that an enforced move of the office she shared with colleague Susy Goodwin at County Hall, Hertford, to Hatfield would fail, an employment tribunal heard.
It is claimed that Ms Thornhill, who had clocked up 20 years' service with the authority as a graphic designer, flouted health and safety requirements by moving unauthorised items of equipment into her office.
Suzanne Brown, the women's former manager, alleged they had been difficult to manage, unco-operative and generally unfriendly. Both women had viewed themselves as "very superior" to other designers within the council, she said.
Returning from leave arranged to allow other staff to attempt to make the office safe, she had with Mrs Goodwin moved back in other unauthorised items which again created a hazard, the tribunal sitting at Bury St Edmunds was told last week.
The result had been an unsafe working environment and was in direct contravention of a list which the women had agreed would be moved into a temporary office at County Hall pending a permanent move to a new unit at Hatfield.
Mike Robinson, head of financial management at Hertfordshire Business Services, said the women had shown a complete lack of co-operation when it became necessary to relocate their graphic design unit as part of a reorganisation.
"The behaviour of Susy and Jean appeared to reflect a determination that the move to temporary accommodation should fail," he said.
The two designers were suspended while an investigation took place. In November 2004 they were called to a 10-day disciplinary hearing which concluded that both should be dismissed immediately for gross misconduct.
Ms Thornhill, of Rookwood Drive, Stevenage, and Mrs Goodwin, 46, of Ware, are both asking the tribunal to uphold a claim that they were unfairly dismissed.
They are claiming the council failed to take into account the stress they were under and that the decision to fire them was linked to grievances they had earlier lodged.
They allege that in the final months of their 20-year careers they were victims of a culture of bullying and fear perpetrated by vindictive managers who refused to take their views into account.
But David Golledge, senior manager responsible for the county graphics design team, told the tribunal: "I believe there was a consistent and concerted effort to obstruct their legitimate relocation to Hatfield."
He said that attempts to resolve problems with the two designers involving their performance and behaviour as well as poor customer service were hampered by their attitude.
"If anything could be questioned, challenged or muddied, it was," added Mr Golledge.
"I became very concerned about their effort to provide a service to our customers."
The women allege that they suffered health problems because of their accommodation at County Hall, that they were bullied by managers and that they had been placed under greater than reasonable stress by the way they were being managed.
The tribunal has been adjourned until October when Ms Thornhill and Mrs Goodwin are due to give their evidence.