A WOMAN working for Kirklees Council has won substantial damages from her former employer.
Administrative assistant Jenny Blackburn has won compensation from the council after it admitted discriminating against her on the grounds of her disability.
The 59-year-old worked for Kirklees for 16 years despite suffering from tinnitus, which left her with no natural sense of balance.
The condition, known as otosclerosis, meant Mrs Blackburn had to rely on eyesight rather than her middle ear to keep her balance.
The condition also meant she had problems hearing in noisy places or when there was more than one voice to distinguish between.
At first the social services department gave Mrs Blackburn a quiet office of her own so she could carry out her duties.
These included liaising with the coroner and the police about deaths in the community, supporting vulnerable people over their finances and people unable to care for their pets.
But her employers decided to move her from the quiet office into the main work area, providing only a transparent plastic screen to shield her from the noise around her.
This impaired her ability to work.
The public services union Unison took up Mrs Blackburn's case after she became ill with stress and depression.
It has won her an agreement to take early retirement with substantial compensation.
Mrs Blackburn said: "I am very grateful to my union for taking up my case.
"I was a victim of the management's failure to recognise my hidden disability and make appropriate arrangements for me to work.
"The tools for the job were a quiet working environment with access to the necessary equipment.
"It was never explained to me why that was taken away from me without any consultation.
"In my case the council did not adhere to its agreed policies of equal opportunities, absence management and dignity at work. It has been a long, hard struggle but I have been helped through by Unison and its lawyers, my family, friends and Calderdale's Social Worker for the Deaf.
"I did not want to retire. I was hard- working and dedicated and shortly before going off sick I received a commendation for services to the community.
"I hope Kirklees and other authorities realise that some disabilities may be hidden or invisible but are still real and need to be acknowledged at work. I would not want anyone else to suffer the stress and misery I was forced to go through."