A MOTHER-of-two who was trailed by a private detective when she developed a disability at work has been awarded almost £60,000 by a tribunal.

Ann Priestley said last night that her employer had destroyed her life and left her with no confidence after she was diagnosed with tennis elbow while employed at Schott Industrial Glass Ltd.

She took the firm, part of an international group of companies, to an employment tribunal after managers made her continue her job despite the health risks.

They even employed a private detective to spy on her for four days to see if she was telling the truth about the severity of her condition.

The tribunal, sitting in Newcastle, ruled that the company's treatment of Mrs Priestley was "irresponsible, in bad faith and utterly unreasonable".

The 44-year-old, of Newton Aycliffe, near Darlington, said last night: "It has been a nightmare. There were times when I felt like giving up. I did not sleep for months.

"After I found out about the private detective, I felt like they were calling me a liar.

"I was mortified when I heard he had been following me around and devastated they had stooped so low.

"I had worked for them for 17 years, working 40 to 70-hour weeks, and never had a day off sick in ten years."

Mrs Priestley joined the company, in Newton Aycliffe, in 1987 and worked in the assembly department as a team leader, but in November 2003 she developed pain in her right arm.

Despite advice by their company doctor that she should not continue repetitive work, the tribunal concluded that the company and managers put her health at risk by keeping her in her normal role.

By May last year, Mrs Priestley, had been told by management to stay away from work and to use up her sickness entitlement despite other jobs she could have filled

She required physiotherapy and injections to ease her condition and has since had an operation.

She said: "I am absolutely disgusted by the way I was treated. They have destroyed my confidence and trust in people. I was a supervisor, so I could have done other roles. It was not a case of being too sick to work."

The tribunal ordered the firm pay her almost £60,000 in compensation plus part of her legal costs, after she won her case for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Alan Lewis, of George Davies Solicitors, in Manchester, said: "It is sad she had to go to these lengths to fight for her rights."

Schott Industrial Glass Ltd declined to comment last night.