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Wednesday, 10 December, 1997, 22:22 GMT
Record pay-out in sex discrimination case
A former council officer has been awarded record damages of more that £230,000 after complaining of sex discrimination.

Esther McLaughlin said she was made redundant from the London Borough of Southwark because she was a woman working in a male environment.

Mrs McLaughlin told the tribunal that since the redundancy three years ago she has been forced to take a large cut in salary.

Ms McLaughlin, who worked as an assistant finance and personnel director and earned £45,000 a year, said her redundancy was a "sham".

"I could not let them get away with it - what kind of example would it set my two daughters?" she said.

The council said it would appeal against the industrial tribunal decision and the size of the award.

"The judgment is based upon a technicality and we have compelling evidence to show that she was treated as fairly as all other employees affected by the council's restructuring proposals," said the authority in a statement.

Ms McLaughlin, who was backed by her union, Unison, said that the council treated her with "disdain", even after she was dismissed.

"They refused to disclose important documents even though the tribunal ordered them to do so. This prolonged the distress for me and my family. I am grateful that the tribunal recognised this by awarding aggravated damages," she said.

Unison's legal officer, Michele Sedgwick, said: "The tribunal concluded that Esther McLaughlin had been a victim of sexual discrimination and the award recognises the extreme difficulty that she now faces in trying to secure a similar position.

"She has been forced to take a job with a large cut in salary, lost pension rights and has lost the professional satisfaction of work at a level that reflects her intellect and enthusiasm."

Ms McLaughlin is now working as a supervisor with a private company, but is earning less than half her council salary.

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