A bullying rumpus engulfed Newcastle's Waygood Studios last month, with art gallery chief executive Helen Smith being blamed for not only bullying an employee but also falsely accusing another of bullying.
Former Waygood company administrator Liping Mak, 31, claims the stress of Ms Smith's bullying caused her to suffer a severe outbreak of eczema. She also alleges gallery officials failed to investigate her complaint about Ms Smith properly, leaving her no option but to resign from her job last December.
She has now launched a claim for unfair constructive dismissal.
As news of Ms Mak's claim surfaced, an employment tribunal upheld an unfair dismissal claim against Waygood in a separate case brought by artist Topsy Qur'et, who alleged he was sacked after Ms Smith falsely accused him of bullying her.
Read more about Waygood's current woes in the Newcastle Journal.
Constructive dismissal law
To prove constructive dismissal, you must demonstrate that your employer committed a serious breach of contract, you did not accept the breach, and you felt forced to resign because of that breach. Examples of serious breaches of contract in this context include the following:
- Unilaterally cutting your pay
- Arbitrarily demoting you to a lesser role
- Changing your job duties, working hours or place of work without your agreement
- Failing to give you reasonable support to carry out your job without disruption, harassment or bullying from co-workers
Constructive dismissal cases are hard to win, so you should always seek advice before leaving your job. Factors such as your employment status, the terms of your employment contract, length of service, and reasons for leaving all require consideration.
You can obtain further information about constructive dismissal and guidance on what your options are for dealing with the situation from Directgov, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and ACAS. Both CAB and ACAS provide free and impartial advice.
Other sources of free information include Worksmart and FindLaw. Depending on the circumstances of your case, however, it may be better to speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law.
You can be matched with an employment law solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.
And, again depending on your situation, they may be able to help you find a solicitor who will agree to take your case on a "no win no fee" basis, which means you don't have to pay for the solicitor's services unless you win your case.