Mum “bullied” after taking time off work for cancer surgery

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A SCHOOL worker was forced to quit her job after colleagues subjected her to “unbearable bullying and victimisation,” a tribunal was told.

Deborah Gilbert claims she was driven to resign from her position as admin assistant at St Anthony’s School, in Sunderland, after repeated abuse from staff.

The employment tribunal heard how the mother-of-two, from Leechmere Grange, had only recently returned to work after a cancer scare when she first reported the alleged incidents.

The 42-year-old, who volunteered to return early to the Thornhill Terrace school after an operation to remove a benign groin tumour, said she was “shunned” by colleagues, and endured “sly digs and black looks”.

She also claimed that she was asked “are you not better yet?” after she requested that her duties be cut down until she fully recovered from the surgery.

“At times, I was doing three jobs at once,” she said. “I was struggling.”

Ms Gilbert, who said she was accused of bullying herself after raising the issues with school bosses, revealed she developed depression, permanent nerve damage and irritable bowel syndrome.

She is also said to have suffered weeks of insomnia due to stress and worry.

“I felt as if I was at my lowest and my depression was at its worst,” she said.

“My feelings of desperation were unbearable. I felt as bad as I did when I had the tumour removed.”

Ms Gilbert is claiming disability discrimination, breach of contract and constructive unfair dismissal against the school, at the hearing in Newcastle.

She said she was forced to do extra work, including sorting post for staff, switchboard and reception duties, despite her condition and was subjected to “laughing and joking” at her expense.

“I felt I was being victimised,” she added.


Twitter: @SunderlandEcho