Tribunal rejects £500,000 claim by disabled journalist

Gosling: £7,000 payout by NUJ

A disabled NUJ conference delegate who sued the union for more than half a million pounds after claiming discrimination has been awarded £7,943 by a tribunal.

Ju Gosling has vowed to appeal the decision, which follows a four-year legal fight since she attended the NUJ’s annual conference in Ennis, Ireland.

In the first case of its kind under the new Disability Discrimination Act Gosling, who uses a wheelchair because of a pain disorder, claimed the NUJ’s failure to cater for her needs led to her suffering a “dissociative disorder”.

A five-day tribunal damages hearing in September heard that Gosling’s condition was brought on by stress and included fainting, auditory, visual, blood pressure and mobility problems.

Her total claim against the NUJ was £655,756, plus interest and included: £120,000 for personal injury, £140,000 for personal support costs and more than £200,000 for loss of earnings.

The tribunal said the NUJ had discriminated against Gosling because her designated assistant was absent for most of the first day of the conference and because it failed to cater for her special dietary needs. The tribunal said the union also should have transported Gosling’s wheelchair back without it getting damaged.

But the tribunal kept the damages total relatively low because of a claim made six weeks after the conference by Gosling’s doctor that she had been poisoned while attending the event.

A second doctor, who specialises in fitness for work, suggested in his evidence to the tribunal that this “suggestion” must have “greatly contributed to her stress and disability”.

He said Gosling’s medical problems “would have been resolved within months had it not been for the poisoning and ongoing litigation”.

The tribunal said Gosling had “failed to substantiate” a claim that she has been left needing 24-hour-aday, seven-day-a-week care. And it said there was a “substantial evidential gap between her belief in her condition and the objective medical evidence concerning the same”.

The tribunal described Gosling’s evidence on loss of earnings as “very unsatisfactory”.

It concluded that there was a “good chance” Gosling would have become ill even without the NUJ’s discrimination.

But they said discriminatory acts from the NUJ were “significant factors” that contributed to her condition.

The board decided that Gosling’s condition would only have lasted four months, had it not been for the suggestion of poisoning made by her GP.

It therefore awarded her £2,000 for personal injury, £4,000 for injury to feelings, £478 for proven financial losses and £1, 465 interest.

In a statement the NUJ said: “This judgment is a particular relief to those members of staff who were trying so hard to help Juliet Gosling. We are pleased that the tribunal has rejected her demand that two of these staff members should be subjected to discipline.

“The union is satisfied too with the confirmation that there was no attempt to poison Juliet Gosling and that we were justified in not offering her any apology.”

Gosling said: “I am not surprised at the judgment, given that both the NUJ and TUC officially condemn the Disability Discrimination Act as being far too weak. However, I am obviously disappointed that, four years on, the NUJ is still refusing to apologise or to take any responsibility for their failings”

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By Dominic Ponsford

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