A former director responsible for schools projects at Maccreanor Lavington has taken the practice to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and disability discrimination
Ann Griffin lodged a case against the London-based practice, claiming she felt compelled to resign from her role as director of social infrastructure in July 2016 after the firm allegedly took the decision she was ‘no longer welcome within the business’.
Her claim before the central London employment tribunal, which opened yesterday (Tuesday 22), argues that the decision to let her go was taken outside of a formal redundancy consultation process launched following the Brexit referendum in 2016, and amounted to constructive unfair dismissal.
Griffin, who in her claim form states she suffers from a degenerative eye condition as well as anxiety and depression, has also claimed that the practice treated her ‘less favourably than it would do so to others because of her disabilities within the meaning of section 13 Equality Act 2010’.
Previously co-director of Meadowcroft Griffin Architects, Griffin was hired by Maccreanor Lavington in March 2013 when her practice disbanded, as the AJ100 firm sought to diversify its operations.
Griffin was put in charge of the practice’s new social infrastructure team, bringing many existing schools projects in the London boroughs of Hackney, Islington, Camden and Croydon from her former practice, as well as other members of staff from that firm.
The claim outlines how when she started at the firm she was diagnosed as moderately visually impaired but her eyesight had since deteriorated. In 2015 she was diagnosed with 10 per cent vision.
It also describes how Griffin had been receiving treatment for anxiety and depression since November 2013 and in May 2016 was signed off work for two weeks as a ‘result of work-related issues’.
Less than a week after the Brexit vote, on 29 June 2016, Maccreanor Lavington held a meeting of directors and associate directors as it anticipated that 10-15 redundancies might be necessary at the firm. Griffin was in charge of preparing the redundancy scoring matrix.
However, on 6 July, Griffin has claimed that the firm’s directors Richard Lavington and Gerard Maccreanor invited her in for a ‘quick word’.
Griffin claims that in the meeting: ‘Gerard Maccreanor stated that the respondent felt it was best if the claimant left the business and that this decision had been made outside of the redundancy process currently being undertaken by the respondent.’ These claims are denied by the practice.
Griffin was offered nine month’s salary upon the termination of her employment. But Griffin instead chose to resign on 13 July 2016, stating that she had ‘found herself to be constructively dismissed as a result of the respondent’s clear assertion that her continued employment with them is no longer desired’.
Griffin claims that the practice’s actions ‘had gone so far that it irreparably damaged the implied relationship of trust and confidence between the claimant and the respondent.
‘The comments and actions of Mr Lavington and Mr Maccreanor during the meeting on 6 July 2016 rendered it impossible for the claimant to continue her employment with the respondent.
In its response to the claims, also filed at the court, Maccreanor Lavington denies all the allegations.
The response form denies that in the July 2016 meeting Maccreanor told Griffin he felt it was best she left and that he said the decision had been taken outside of the redundancy process.
The firm argues that, in the meeting, the directors told Griffin things had ‘not worked out’ and that it had decided not to pursue the social infrastructure stand-alone team because the projects were ‘complicated and involved a lot of risk’, but that in no way related to Griffin personally.
According to the response form, the meeting was a ‘genuine attempt by the respondent to reach an agreement with the claimant in a protected conversation for her to leave the Company with an enhanced redundancy package’.
In the response form, Maccreanor Lavington also claims that when Griffin started working for the firm she did not state she had been diagnosed as moderately visually impaired.
It claims it knew Griffin had seen a specialist in relation to her eyesight, but that it was not aware that she suffered from the degenerative disease and that she had been diagnosed as being severely visually impaired with 10 per cent vision.
The firm’s form denies that Maccreanor Lavington had treated the claimant less favourably than it would others ‘because of her alleged disabilities, and asks for ‘further and better particulars of claim in that regard’.
Last week, the practice had five projects on the list of RIBA’s London regional awards, including three schools projects.
The hearing continues.