College pays £15K to ex-disability officer

October 29, 2004

A college has paid £15,000 to settle a disability discrimination claim brought by its former disability coordinator.

Solicitors acting for Sharifa Farley, who headed a disability rights project at Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln, confirmed this week that the institution had paid her compensation - hours before an employment tribunal into her allegations.

Paul Daniels, of solicitors Russell Jones and Walker, said the college had claimed that funding for Mrs Farley's post had been withdrawn, when, in fact, documents show the college had asked funding bodies to terminate its grants for the "improving provision for disabled students" scheme.

Mrs Farley was appointed part-time disability coordinator at the college in 2000. The 49-year-old had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and claimed that the college had failed to adjust her working hours to accommodate the condition, as required by law. She also claimed she was "intimidated and bullied" at the college. She said she was forced to take a lengthy period of extended sick leave, and was sacked in March 2003.

Mrs Farley's solicitors obtained documents revealing that former principal Eileen Baker OBE had written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, asking it to cease funding the disability project, citing "problems".

In February 2002, Hefce wrote to Mrs Baker: "I was sorry to hear of the problems... I understand your letter to be a request for Hefce to discontinue grant to the project."

Solicitors acting for Bishop Grosseteste, Andrew and Co, said the college strenuously denied all the "unsubstantiated" allegations from Mrs Farley relating to her period of employment, "in particular those of intimidation and bullying" and had made it clear that "its attempts to resolve matters were not in any way an acceptance of allegations".

It accepted that it had "learnt some valuable lessons about the need to review and enhance our employment practices".

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