INVERCLYDE'S MSP is locked in a legal battle with a former employee amid claims his office was a 'hostile and humiliating' environment to work in.

Stuart McMillan is facing claims of unfair dismissal and sex and disability discrimination from former case worker Philomena Donnachie, who alleges she was belittled and undermined in his Grey Place base.

Ms Donnachie, 58, claims she suffered 'personal attacks' from office manager Matthew Leitch, who was 'confrontational' and 'aggressive' towards her, leading to her taking almost a year off due to work-related stress.

At an employment tribunal in Glasgow, her solicitor Brian McLaughlin stated that her case includes a claim that her employer 'violated her dignity by creating a hostile and humiliating environment for her'.

The tribunal heard Ms Donnachie began working for the politician after meeting him during the independence referendum campaign.

She told how she was very passionate about her job, saying: “It wasn’t just a parliamentary office.

"It was Stuart, it was the SNP, it was independence.

"It was a whole philosophy and way of life for me.”

In April 2016 Ms Donnachie suffered a stroke while working late one night and had to take three months off.

When she returned, Mr Leitch had been appointed as Mr McMillan's new office manager and things began to deteriorate.

Mr Leitch began to keep records of her time-keeping and absences and Ms Donnachie claimed he became 'quite confrontational about it' despite her regularly working past her finishing time and attending meetings in the evening on behalf of Mr McMillan.

The tribunal heard evidence about an email Mr Leitch sent to Mr McMillan detailing her sickness absence, including the time she had off due to her stroke.

In it, he wrote: “While Phil often stays late to catch up, this is often due to her sickness record and slow pace at which she works.”

Solicitor Mr McLaughlin asked Ms Donnachie if her understanding was that she had to stay late to make up for time off sick.

She replied: “No. I think it’s outrageous somebody would suggest you had to make up time because you’ve been off sick.”

She added that no one had ever raised an issue about her working slowly.

Mr Leitch had also suggested in the letter that Ms Donnachie attended meetings in the evening 'for a night out'.

Ms Donnachie’s response to that was that she had 'better things to do'.

No action was ever taken about any of the issues raised by Mr Leitch.

The tribunal heard that soon after this, Ms Donnachie contacted Mr McMillan to raise concerns about the way Mr Leitch was treating her.

She told him she was 'desperately trying' to improve her health and this was not helping.

She said that Mr McMillan never replied.

Ms Donnachie told the tribunal her manager Mr Leitch was 'very aggressive' with her during meetings, and regularly talked over her in the office.

She said this eventually led to her going off work due to stress.

The tribunal has also heard claims that Ms Donnachie had spread rumours that Mr Leitch engaged in a solo sex act in the office toilets.

Mr Leitch submitted a complaint about her to Mr McMillan, in which he claimed that the 55-year-old had been spreading 'salacious' gossip about him.

He wrote that Ms Donnachie had told at least two people that 'I go to the toilet to masturbate because I have become aroused by staring at the back of her head'.

The letter formed part of a grievance procedure against Ms Donnachie, although she resigned before it could be concluded.

Ms Donnachie, who denied ever making the allegation, said: "I was absolutely horrified that these words appeared in the letter sent to me from Stuart [McMillan].

"My whole sensibilities were offended by it in every manner.

"It almost made me speechless to think about it.

"It was horrific.

"I could not believe he would put that in writing to me."

Ms Donnachie, who suffers from depression, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and other health issues, launched her claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination because of her sex and disabilities.

She said that Mr McMillan's office had a particular layout which resembled a school classroom, with workers sitting in a row with Mr Leitch at the back of the room behind them.

She admitted that this made her uncomfortable, and that she had complained to others about feeling that her office manager was staring at her.

Solicitor Mr McLaughlin, representing Ms Donnachie, said that the tribunal would hear from witnesses who claimed she had made the sex act remarks.

However, she replied that this would be 'lies'.

She said: "It was all too much for me.

"I just thought 'this man [Mr Leitch] hates me.

"He does not want me around.

"I just thought it was the final straw and that I could not take any more of this."

The tribunal, before employment judge Lucy Wiseman, continues.