BHP Law's Employment Team help Hartlepool Law Lecturer

16th September 2015

A solicitor who successfully represented a college lecturer in her claim for unfair dismissal has paid tribute to her courage.

Sue Houchen, who sunk her life savings into bringing the case, says the chance to tell her story to a tribunal and subsequently winning her case are important steps on her road back to full health.

Her solicitor of regional legal practice BHP Law, said Mrs Houchen felt  let down badly by senior managers at Hartlepool Sixth Form College and that the tribunal's ruling of unfair constructive dismissal was correct.

Nevertheless, he said Mrs Houchen was courageous in pursuing the case and now deserves full recompense.

Mrs Houchen was a very committed, dedicated and hard working member of staff who took great pride in her work and who lived and breathed her job. She showed immense courage in bringing an action against the college, especially after the situation left her very ill.

The hearing lasted for seven days and was legally very complicated. Although remedies are still to be determined, the decision in terms of liability vindicated Mrs Houchen's action.

Mrs Houchen joined the college in 2001 and two years later established the law department, which offered degree level courses as well as A levels. The college grew quickly and became very successful, with both the department and its head judged as outstanding by education inspectors.

Managers instigated a very unfair disciplinary process. The senior management knew of the relationship issues and that two camps had formed within the law department. They should have known that any complaint from one camp about Mrs Houchen should be treated with caution but instead took them at face value and framed them as disciplinary charges without making further enquiries or investigations, especially as some of the charges put were manifestly without foundation.

The actions of senior management forced Mrs Houchen from her employment and it is very sad for the students and college to lose such a dedicated person in this manner.

Mrs Houchen, who lives near Stockton, admitted the tribunal had been extremely difficult.

"I could never have done it without the support of my family and my Solicitor, who were all extremely supportive. He put in a huge amount of work, often in his own time, and kept me up to date every step of the way.

"Two and a half days of cross examination were very traumatic but having the chance to get my story out started to make me feel better.

Still considering her future including whether or not she plans to go back into public sector education, Mrs Houchen added: "I wasn't insured to bring the case but was driven by the need to clear my name and couldn't have done it without my Solicitors support.