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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Lesbian nurses win sacking payout
Margaret Durman and Penny Smith. Picture courtesy of Western Morning News
Margaret Durman and Penny Smith say their lives have been ruined. Picture: Western Morning News
Two lesbian nurses have won a six-figure compensation claim after they were sacked because of their sexuality, it has emerged.

Margaret Durman and Penny Smith were dismissed from a Cornish care centre because of an unfounded complaint they allowed residents to be abused.

They won their case for sexual orientation discrimination at a tribunal last year.

Last month care home owner Barchester Healthcare lost its appeal.

Ms Durman and Ms Smith, from Kelly Bray, Cornwall, were sacked in 2005 from Kernow House in Launceston, following an internal inquiry by Barchester Healthcare.

Barchester had a total disregard not only for employment law...but also the health and welfare of their staff who they assumed were guilty from the outset
Sue Matthews, Royal College of Nursing

But the tribunal found that if the original anonymous complaint against the pair had been investigated properly "it would have revealed no possible cause for concern".

The report added: "We are not satisfied that a heterosexual couple would have been treated the same."

Ms Durman, 55, who has been a registered nurse for 35 years and Ms Smith, 41, a psychiatric nurse, said as a result of the allegations both of them had needed counselling and had suffered panic attacks.

Ms Durman said: "This has ruined both our professional lives and our private lives.

"Because of the ongoing hearings and appeals we have not been able to work at all.

"We have had no apology from Barchester Healthcare."

'No alternative'

Sue Matthews, regional officer for the Royal College of Nursing, who represented the nurses, said: "Barchester had a total disregard not only for employment law and good practice, but also the health and welfare of their staff who they assumed were guilty from the outset."

Barchester Healthcare said its procedures had been reviewed as a result of the tribunal.

"As a result of Barchester's investigation, it felt it had no alternative but to dismiss the staff concerned," a spokeswoman said.

"[But] the sexual orientation of its staff is of no interest to Barchester."

The women said they lost their jobs because of their sexuality

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