Leeds & West Yorkshire

Doctor Eva Michalak wins £4.5m over discrimination

A hospital trust has been ordered to pay nearly £4.5m in compensation to a doctor who was hounded out of her job after deciding to have a baby.

A Leeds tribunal found Dr Eva Michalak, now 53, suffered race and sex discrimination at Pontefract General Infirmary.

It said colleagues mounted a "concerted campaign" to bring her employment to an end while she was on maternity leave.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has apologised to Dr Michalak.

The trust and three senior staff members have been ordered to pay Dr Michalak £4,452,206.60 for the sex and race discrimination.

The figure is thought to be the largest award in a UK discrimination case.

The tribunal earlier this year heard that senior staff members began a plan to get rid of Dr Michalak, who worked as an obstetrician, at a secret meeting in March 2003, when she was seven months pregnant.

She began to receive complaints and criticism against her, being accused of bullying junior doctors, until her suspension in January 2006.

She was then subjected to "a lengthy and wholly unauthorised period of suspension" before disciplinary proceedings began in May 2007, concluding in her dismissal in July 2008.

Stress disorder

The tribunal panel said there were repeated references made to Dr Michalak's Polish origin during telephone conversations and meetings between her colleagues, where they questioned her competency because she trained in her home country.

In their judgment, the tribunal panel said the disciplinary procedure used by the trust in the case was "bogus" and Dr Michalak was dismissed "for no good or justifiable reason".

It continued: "As a consequence of that dismissal the claimant has lost her role and status as a hospital consultant, as we will ultimately find, she is never going to return to work as a doctor, a profession which she, in common with both of her parents, cherished together with all the status that that brings with it."

The panel continued: "It is right that in this case we are positively outraged at the way this employer has behaved."

Medical experts had told the tribunal that Dr Michalak had suffered "chronic and disabling" post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, which had led to an "enduring personality change".

Public apology

Her husband, Dr Julian DeHavilland, told the tribunal he was constantly worried about the safety of his wife and his son and had to give up his job to care for them.

Julia Squire, chief executive at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, made a public apology to Dr Michalak.

She said: "We have unreservedly apologised to Dr Michalak for mistakes of the past and I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that apology in public.

"We took last year's tribunal judgment extremely seriously and immediately had an independent review carried out. This found no evidence of widespread discrimination across the trust and has helped us shape further improvements to ensure that what happened in the past is never repeated in the future.

Mrs Squire continued: "We have only just received the judge's decision on the compensation and this is based on very complex and lengthy calculations.

"We will need time to carefully consider these but ensuring high-quality patient care continues will be paramount in any decision."

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