A senior council executive sacked during cancer therapy launched claims for libel, unfair dismissal, disability discrimination, and sex discrimination against her former employer this week.
Jeanette McGarry earned £123,000-a-year as director of housing environmental and neighbourhood services (HENS) at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Shortly after assuming her position in June 2009, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She asked to work part-time while she completed her treatment, but the council refused and instead put her on "gardening leave".
Then, to compound matters, on the day she returned home following surgery she received a dismissal letter. The council's chief executive, John van de Laarschot, also issued a statement questioning her performance and conduct as HNES director.
Ms McGarry claims the statement libelled her.
Louis Charalambous, of law firm Simons, Muirhead and Burton, said: "Employment and libel proceedings have been issued in the Employment Tribunal service in Birmingham and the High Court in London on Jeanette McGarry's behalf. I expect both cases to come to trial next year."
Before joining Stoke City Council, Ms McGarry worked as chief executive of East Staffordshire Borough Council. She left that position in acrimonious circumstances too, leaving "by mutual consent" in December 2008 after being suspended for alleged misconduct. According to the Sentinel, East Staffordshire paid her £121,333 when she left -- equivalent to 10 months' basic pay for loss of office -- and a further three months' wages in lieu of notice.
The paper also quotes a source close to Ms McGarry who says she taking legal action to "restore her professional reputation". "Jeanette feels that her dismissal was unjustified, and that the press release issued to the media afterwards was effectively a career-ending statement, due to the damaging claims it made about her behaviour," the source said. "She also feels she was unfairly made into a scapegoat for delays with the Kier Stoke housing venture, which had been a problem long before she arrived at the council."
The council has so far declined to comment on the two cases.
- Former director sues council for libel and sexual discrimination (The Sentinel)
- Council axes cancer victim after surgery (The Sentinel)
- £130,000 pay-off head of council speaks for first time but reveals nothing (The Sentinel)
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council statement about Jeanette McGarry (Pits n Pots)
- Libel law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Libel Q&A (Community)
- Find a solicitor (Contact Law)