Tribunal couple to appeal over payout

It is a bitter battle between father and daughter that forced a professional woman into poverty, depression and attempted suicide. Suzanne Bunning, 31, lost her home, her career and needs full-time care from her partner Tom Fletcher following her five-year fight to win a sexual discrimination case against her father's firm, GT Bunning, based in Gressenhall, near Dereham.

It is a bitter battle between father and daughter that forced a professional woman into poverty, depression and attempted suicide.

Suzanne Bunning, 31, lost her home, her career and needs full-time care from her partner Tom Fletcher following her five-year fight to win a sexual discrimination case against her father's firm, GT Bunning, based in Gressenhall, near Dereham.

Yesterday, she was awarded a £7,500 payout, described as a "miscarriage of justice" by Mr Fletcher, who estimated the struggle had cost more than £300,000 in bills and lost earnings.

The strain of the conflict has left their lives in tatters; Miss Bunning now suffers from depression and agoraphobia and last September tried to commit suicide, while Mr Fletcher was forced to quit work four-years ago to become her full-time carer.

The couple were forced to sell their family home at Denver, near Downham Market, to fund the legal battle and now live in a housing association property at Welshpool in Wales with their two-year-old daughter Joy.

Despite the high price of their struggle, Mr Fletcher said they would challenge the size of the payout awarded by the remedy hearing, which was held in Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

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Miss Bunning worked as a welder at GT Bunning and claims that she was pressurised to return to work after falling pregnant in 2001, resulting in her miscarrying her first child.

Mr Fletcher said: "This is a miscarriage of justice and a bad day for pregnant women. It seems like companies can do whatever they want these days.

"We have had no life for the last five years. Suzanne's depression makes it difficult for her to live a normal life because she won't go out on her own and I have had to become her carer."

Mr Fletcher was also highly critical of Miss Bunning's family, saying he believed

she had been "betrayed" by them.

Miss Bunning claimed her miscarriage was a result of stress caused by having to continue manual work and she sued the company for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination.

An employment tribunal rejected her initial claims but this was overturned on appeal and a new hearing found she had been discriminated against but there was no unfair dismissal.

This was upheld in the court of appeal and the remedy hearing at Shrewsbury decided on the level of damages she received.

Mr Fletcher said the remedy hearing's decision to reject her claims of psychiatric injury contradicted the findings of a psychiatric expert.

The expert found that Suzanne's depression was linked to her realisation that she had unwittingly put her unborn baby at risk by returning to work because her father's firm had not given her the full information.

"The tribunal put more emphasis on her duty to protect herself rather than the company," he said.

"We feel that the tribunal have not addressed a variety of issues and they have come to a very blinkered and narrow conclusion."

GT Bunning declined to comment on the case.