Husband of doctor in £4.5m bias payout speaks out

Dr Eva Michalak at a Leeds employment tribunal. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Dr Eva Michalak at a Leeds employment tribunal. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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The husband of a leading doctor hounded out of her job for deciding to have a baby told how a “sinister” campaign waged by bosses at a Yorkshire NHS trust left her reclusive and profoundly ill.

Julian DeHavilland criticised the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust for leaving his wife, consultant general physician Eva Michalak, with chronic depression and for wasting taxpayers’ money after a tribunal ordered it to pay £4.5m in compensation for sex and race discrimination.

The figure, revealed by yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, is thought to be a record for the public sector and leaves the financially-stricken trust with a further financial headache.

Polish-born Dr Michalak, 53, will never be able to work again due to the campaign to oust her from her job at Pontefract General Infirmary after she left to have a baby in 2003.

Her life was made a “living hell” as she was subjected to false accusations of bullying junior doctors and suspended repeatedly before being dismissed in July 2008.

Trust bosses held secret meetings, the minutes of which were inadvertently given to Dr DeHavilland as part of a pile of documents released as part of his wife’s disciplinary process.

Dr DeHavilland, 45, who gave up work and spent night-after-night studying employment law to represent his wife, said: “This payout is not a win. Any happiness and joy she had has diminished because she does not enjoy life in the way a happy person can. She is now very reclusive and the slightest thing can make her very upset.”

Dr DeHavilland accused the trust of squandering money unnecessarily defending the case.

“I think we are supposed to receive the full amount the tribunal awarded, but we will have to write a cheque out for £2m in tax,” he said.

“Even that was avoidable. We proposed that they could settle out of court as a personal injury claim which I think does not attract income tax, but this was ignored.

“We tried to make use of grievance procedures in 2007 which would have avoided the harm to Eva and the need for an employment tribunal. The trust simply did not follow the law and the harm to my wife has been immense and long-lasting.”

The compensation will exacerbate the financial crisis at the trust, which runs hospital services in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury, as it struggles to make efficiency savings of £31m amid warnings it already needs a bail-out of £14m to balance the books.

The region’s strategic health authority yesterday said no more disciplinary measures would be taken against staff following previous action.

Trust chief executive Julia Squire said an independent review commissioned after the tribunal judgment found no evidence of widespread discrimination at the trust.

She said: “We have unreservedly apologised to Dr Michalak for mistakes of the past and I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that apology in public.

“Over 8,000 people work at our trust and we value and respect each and every person for the outstanding contribution that they make.

We make it very clear that we simply do not tolerate bullying, harassment and discrimination under any circumstances and will ensure that there can be no repetition of the behaviour identified by the tribunal.”