A mother fired after being diagnosed with breast cancer has won more than £32,000 in a discrimination lawsuit.
Marketing manager Lucy Lyddall underperformed at her job while battling the disease, but her managers never told her they were unhappy, a labor court heard.
Instead of speaking to the 50-year-old about improving her job, the unsuspecting executive instead received “positive reinforcement” from supervisors.
Then, when she returned from sabbatical to recover from breast cancer treatment, she was “completely shocked” when she was released.
Company boss Charlie Wooldridge later admitted that they “didn’t want to send her negative feedback,” putting her under even more stress.
Ms Lyddall defended herself without a lawyer and successfully sued The Wooldridge Partnership Ltd, a multi-million pound construction company in Surrey, for disability discrimination.
She won £32,351 in compensation, with a judge in Reading, Berkshire criticizing the company for saying she had been fired “at a point of exceptional vulnerability”.
Ms Lyddall – who bought a Porsche to celebrate her win – said she made the “disheartening” decision to fight the company, which boasts a turnover of £45million, as they “were trying to protect my character and destroying my professional reputation”.
“I couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer, so I did my best,” she said.
“The things they said about me were so unfair.”
Ms. Lyddall, who has developed marketing strategies for some of Wooldridge’s businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure portfolio, began working for the company in March 2021.
Just two months later, she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and had to take time off for hospital treatment.
She then took more time off for further treatments and her marriage to plumber husband Chris, 37, in July.
When she returned to work in August 2021 – the day after their brief honeymoon – Costas Constantinou, an adviser to Wooldridge, told her she was being “let go” as “her vision is not her vision”.
A “shocked” Ms. Lyddall said it was “completely unexpected” as “at no point did anyone speak to me about my performance”.
“In fact, I only received positive reinforcement,” she added.
Mr Constantinou, who had a “good relationship” with Ms Lyddall, said there were “a number of examples” related to “poor performance”, including low-quality social media posts and work on websites.
He said it “failed to engage with the directors and stakeholders, failed to deliver and fail to develop a brand identity.”
It was the worst time of my life, it was devastating.
Ms Lyddall has denied claims her work was unsatisfactory, but acknowledged a number of “serious faults or deficiencies” which she felt were not serious enough to warrant dismissal.
When asked why he hadn’t spoken to her about improving her work, Mr Constantinou said: “I don’t think that’s the right approach.”
Mr Wooldridge, who reportedly gave up a professional polo career to take over the family business, said he didn’t think it was “fair” to email her negative feedback as she’s only been with the company a few weeks.
Mr Wooldridge also told her: “It was around the time this was being considered that you gave us the news and that you were leaving and that’s obviously not really the time to email you negative feedback from the inside to send team.
“Obviously it was the decision that we shouldn’t stress you any more.”
Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto ruled that Ms Lyddall had been the victim of disability discrimination.
He said Mr Wooldridge had her disability and medical treatment in mind when he chose not to criticize her and gave no warning that her dismissal could be imminent unless her performance improved.
The judge said the case had a “serious and significant impact” on Ms Lyddall and she lost her job at a “point of exceptional vulnerability”.
‘I WAS SHOCKED’
He also said she had no way of knowing she was failing at work and the concerns about her performance were not serious enough to justify termination of employment.
Today Ms Lydall, mother of one and stepmother of two, said: “It was so difficult, I was still in treatment at the time.
“I cried when they told me. I loved my job and thought I was doing great.
“I didn’t accept the reason. I was shocked it happened.
“It was the worst time of my life – it was a devastating diagnosis as it affects everything in my life.
“I thought Costas and I were good friends and I respected him.
“You can put your faith in these people and it doesn’t mean anything.”
After her court victory, she bought her dream engine – a Porsche Cayman S – after her husband told her: “Just understand, life is short.”
Ms Lyddall who underwent 10 days of intensive radiation therapy to treat her Cancer and has been on meds every day for the last two years to get “battle fit” and now works as a part-time Merchandising Assistant.
She has vowed never to go back into marketing, which she has done for 30 years, as she has “lost her confidence”.