Given the vile nature of discrimination, damages for injury to feelings are allowed under the Equality Act 2010. The stated aim is not to deter or punish but instead to compensate victims for the hurt caused.
In Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire  IRLR 102 the Court of Appeal set out the bands for injury to feelings which are known today as the “Vento” bands. These bands are updated from time to time and for claims presented on or after 06 April 2018 they have been updated as follows:
To help illustrate how the Vento bands work we have looked at some past cases using disability discrimination as an example. Although the sums of money have not been adjusted for inflation these decisions help to show how the Employment Tribunal approaches injury to feelings awards.
Lower Band Case – Hextall v Tesco Stores Ltd (Leicester) (Case No 1900214/2007) (10 July 2007, unreported) – Injury to Feelings Award of £1,000 (in 2007)
The Respondent discriminated against the Claimant for a reason relating to a disability when it gave her a written warning for absence caused by her disability. The warning was not justifiable because the absence related to her disability, was explained by her and was of a different nature to the absences for which a verbal warning had been given. She was entitled to feel upset and concerned by a written warning. This was a lower band case.*
Middle Band Case – Restarick v Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (Havant) (Case No 3104239/2011) (23 October 2012, unreported) – Injury to Feelings Award of £12,000 (in 2011)
The Claimant was a Community Midwife. She has spina bifida occulta and her left leg was amputated below the knee. Shortly after her return to work the Respondent decided to dismiss the Claimant because it believed that she could not perform 70% of her role. The Respondent failed to make reasonable adjustments. The Claimant was distressed and in a state of shock because she never considered that she would be treated in that way. She thought she would be welcomed back and supported. This was not one of the most serious cases but it was not minor, isolated or a one-off. It was a middle Vento band case.*
Upper Band Case – Desousa v Barrow (Southampton) (Case No 3103029/08) (1 April 2009, unreported) – Injury to Feelings Award of £20,000 (in 2009)
The Claimant was an MOT Assistant in a garage who had a mental impairment affecting his literacy, numeracy and ability to process information in his memory. The Respondent was advised on a list of adjustments that were reasonable to make but failed to make them and the Claimant saw two employees laughing at the list. The Claimant was called a ‘cabbage’ and an ‘idiot’, he was ostracised from conversation and jobs were removed from him. On one occasion his manager told him that ‘one of these days I am going to smash your face in’. Complaints about this behaviour were ignored. Disability awareness training was arranged but no-one from the Respondent attended. There was no system of supervision, guidance or monitoring in place and no risk assessment. The Respondent failed to appreciate the effect on the Claimant over a prolonged period or that the needs of disabled people are different. This took place over two years and led to the Claimant’s resignation. The Claimant felt at different times horrible, anxious, really unhappy, tearful, like a piece of rubbish, exhausted, very frightened, invisible, fearful of panic attacks and as if the Respondent had given up on him. This was a serious top band case.*
(* Case reports from Lexis Nexis)
Whether you are an employer or an employee, issues of discrimination in the workplace often merit expert legal advice at an early stage.
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