A TEACHER with Asperger's Syndrome has been awarded almost £9,000 in damages after being told by Queen Anne High School's rector that she was "surplus to requirement".

Mrs Moray Hamilton, 44, who taught religion and morals, took her case to an employment tribunal in Edinburgh after becoming upset when she was informed of a decision to transfer her to another school.

She believed it was part of a "personal vendetta" and "retaliation" after having asked to go home the previous day, while rector Ruth McFarlane said she thought the angry teacher was going to "physically assault" her during a row.

Mrs Hamilton had been seeking £27,000 in damages.

Employment judge Joseph d’Inverno said Ms McFarlane had failed "to take account of the claimant’s disability in the initial decision-making process which identified her as a member of staff surplus to requirement" and liable to transfer.

He said Mrs Hamilton was at a "substantial disadvantage" as "sufferers of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a communications disorder, suffer from higher levels of anxiety and are unable to cope with certain types of change".

The tribunal found that the rector had hurt Mrs Hamilton's feelings and, ahead of a second "informal" meeting, should have given her time to prepare and have a union rep present.

The judge said that Ms McFarlane was "aware of the claimant’s disability and had personal experience of interaction with the claimant in the context of her disability" and "knew that she could become emotional in circumstances of increased stress".

It added: "The tribunal considered that there was, in the circumstances, a duty incumbent upon the respondent ... to take steps as it was reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage to which the claimant was put."

Other allegations, including harassment, victimisation and constructive dismissal, were not upheld.

Mrs Hamilton, who had taught part-time at Queen Anne since December 2011, was diagnosed with Asperger's in 2013.

She was told by the rector on March 3, 2016, without any prior warning, that she was designated as being surplus to staff requirement and was to be removed from her post and transferred.

In evidence, Mrs Hamilton claimed that, based on hearsay, the rector had described her to another member of staff as "difficult to work with" and said that an absence from the school the previous day was in part due to her disability.

It turned out she had three separate exchanges with Ms McFarlane on March 2, 2016, about going home to attend her sick 11-year-old daughter, and although the rector had agreed, this had been misconstrued by Mrs Hamilton.

Meetings with various departments and personnel about those deemed to be surplus had long been planned for the following day.

Mrs Hamilton accepted, under cross examination and in line with council policy, that as she was the junior member of staff and, as the senior member was not prepared to volunteer to move to another school or reduce their hours, she was most likely to be deemed surplus.

In April 2016, she sent an email to Ms McFarlane stating she wanted to remain at Queen Anne, that there were unspecified "errors" in the process to declare her surplus and threatening to take the case to an employment tribunal.

The rector asked her to come in for an “informal chat” to try to explain the steps and the policy which had been followed and to try to ascertain what she considered had been done wrongly.

However, the meeting, on April 26, 2016 , also attended by an HR representative, led to a "heated exchange" about the circumstances of Mrs Hamilton's absence on March 2, with Ms McFarlane stating it was a "blatant lie" that she had suggested that Mrs Hamilton should leave her sick 11-year-old daughter at home on her own for a few hours.

Mrs Hamilton had responded by shouting: “Don’t you ever accuse me of lying” before leaving and slamming the door behind her, the tribunal heard.

The rector later said she thought she was "going to physically assault me".

Mrs Hamilton lodged a grievance complaint the next day about the "unacceptable conduct" of the headteacher.

She stated: “I feel that I was misled about the nature of the meeting, that it was an ambush, that it was conducted inappropriately."

Mrs Hamilton had added: "I cannot cope with injustice, which manifested when she accused me of making up the discussion about my daughter."

She had wanted to return to teaching at Queen Anne but was not prepared to do so unless the rector was removed from her post.

After the heated meeting, she returned to work for two days before being absent due to ill health – stress and anxiety – until her resignation in September 2017.

Three grievance complaints were investigated, one was partially upheld although the decision to declare her surplus remained.

For failing to take into account her Asperger's, when the decision was being made to make her surplus, Mrs Hamilton was awarded £6,250 in damages for "hurt to feelings".

In relation to the failure to allow her to prepare or have a union rep at the meeting in April 2016, she was awarded £2,300 in damages, reduced by 50 per cent as it was felt Mrs Hamilton should share some blame for the row.

Fife Council's Sharon McKenzie, head of HR, said: "As a responsible employer, we do not ever publicly discuss the individual details of any of our former or current employees.

"We will reflect on any legal decision and take appropriate action, including a review or revision to policy or practice, as appropriate."