West Hampstead woman was unfairly sacked - but won't get any compensation

Sanju Pal outside the employment tribunal court in central London in May 2022

Sanju Pal, pictured outside the employment tribunal court in central London in May 2022, has won part of her case but will not receive a compensation award - Credit: Charles Thomson

A West Hampstead woman was unfairly dismissed by her employer, but will receive no compensation.

Sanju Pal had sought £180,000 from professional services company Accenture UK Ltd, where she worked as a consultant-for-hire.

But she will likely receive just a few thousand pounds in a “basic award”, after judges accused her of “exaggerating” her health issues and giving “selective and self-serving" evidence at an employment tribunal.

“We do not find the claimant to be a reliable witness of fact,” they wrote.

The panel dismissed her claims of race and disability discrimination but found she was sacked using an inappropriate policy, which was “unreasonable” and “unfair”.

However, they said Accenture was otherwise “perfectly entitled” to dismiss her due to poor performance.

“We therefore make a reduction of 100 per cent to the compensatory award,” they wrote.

Miss Pal refuted some of the criticisms and said she was considering her options.

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“I am exceedingly disappointed and am considering the judgement with my legal team," she said.

"But I’m still pleased that I was able to challenge Accenture’s practices."

“Exaggerated”

Miss Pal, who worked at Accenture for almost ten years, claimed the firm fired her when sciatica, endometriosis and asthma affected her work.

Judges found she was not disabled by her asthma or endometriosis.

She was disabled by sciatica, they ruled, but bosses didn't know and thus did not discriminate against her because of it.

The judges alleged Miss Pal had “exaggerated” claims about her health.

They wrote: “In her impact statement, the claimant said that ‘I now only wear trainers, even normal flat shoes put pressure on my back when walking and cause pain’.

“This was demonstrably false; the claimant wore flat shoes throughout the entire proceedings."

Miss Pal told the Ham&High she had only worn flat shoes to look smart for court and they had caused her a degree of pain.

“Similarly, the claimant’s impact statement gave a description of her persistent cough and alluded to an inability to speak; however, she gave oral evidence, clearly and audibly, over the course of two full days.”

Miss Pal said her statement was written in 2020 about her condition in 2019, so she rejected the criticisms based on her 2022 testimony.

Sanju Pal outside her employment tribunal

Sanju Pal leaving Victory House, where her tribunal against Accenture UK Ltd was heard, in May 2022 - Credit: Charles Thomson

Race

Miss Pal also alleged that white staff with similar performance records were not sacked.

But judges said those she cited were actually far higher performers than her.

While Miss Pal earned two promotions in her first four years at Accenture, judges said her performance slipped.

By 2018 she was only generating income for the company 66.1pc of the time.

“If all of the respondent’s consultants worked at only around 66pc chargeability, the business would not be profitable at all,” the judges wrote.

In 2019, it dropped to 60pc.

“This was despite a great deal of support being given to the claimant to find chargeable roles,” said the judgement.

“The claimant had a tendency to decline roles even when others recommended her for them.”

“Great Work”

An employment tribunal in May heard Miss Pal was never subject to a formal disciplinary procedure – a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) - before being sacked.

Company policy said PIPs “must” be used for underperforming staff.

While she was twice rated “not progressing”, which could signal that her job was at risk, Miss Pal was also praised during the same period, the tribunal heard.

A senior manager lauded her “great work” and “willingness to roll up her sleeves”, calling her “a go-to person”.

When a client gave some critical feedback, Miss Pal’s line manager said it was “not genuine underperformance” and she needed only “minor course correction”.

Sanju Pal outside the tribunal court in May 2022

Miss Pal, from West Hampstead, said she was considering her options after the tribunal judges said she should receive no compensation award - Credit: Charles Thomson

“Significant Issues”

But judges said there was “a vast amount of evidence" showing "significant" underperformance "over a period of years”.

They found the failure to put Miss Pal on a PIP was unimportant and she could have been in no doubt that her underperformance meant her job was at risk.

But, they said, the procedure used to sack her was designed for misconduct cases, not performance cases.

It required an investigation, which did not occur, and the make-up of the panel for her dismissal meeting was also in breach of the policy.

Judges advised Accenture to put in place a new policy for performance dismissals.

Accenture did not respond to the ruling, saying: “We do not comment on individual personnel matters."