A disabled worker was unfairly sacked for taking too long to evacuate during a fire drill, a tribunal has found.
The tribunal heard his manager ignored occupational health advice to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the worker.
Disabled worker unfairly sacked
Since 2015, Andrew Lawton worked as an IT Manager for Crystal Ball – a small technology company providing cyber security to businesses.
The company is located on the 5th floor of an office building in Manchester in the UK.
In February 2019, Lawton’s knee buckled and he subsequently suffered a number of associated problems, including severe bruising.
His condition made it difficult for him to walk up and down stairs.
Lawton claimed his condition worsened during various periods when the lift in the building had broken down, forcing him to use the stairs.
On one occasion he said he was in so much pain that he could not attend work.
During a fire drill, Lawton said he felt “humiliated” when his manager Raj Singh told him he took too long to evacuate.
Singh also accused Lawton of spending too much time in the toilet.
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Request considered ‘challenge to authority’
Lawton asked to work from home whenever the lift was not working, however Singh considered the request a “challenge to his authority”.
Singh’s attitude towards Lawton subsequently changed, and he sought to have him sacked.
The tribunal report found:
“Mr Singh does not appear to react well to challenges. Mr Lawton writing to Mr Singh advising him of his rights as a person with a disability, was seen by Mr Singh as a challenge to his authority and to run his business as he wished.”
In the end, Employment Judge Ann Benson found Crystal Ball had discriminated against Lawton the basis of disability.
She therefore found his dismissal unfair.
“We have found that Mr Singh had a discriminatory reason for instigating disciplinary procedures against Mr Lawton.
We consider that Mr Singh had an agenda to remove Mr Lawton from the business.
This was a progressive situation which intensified over time as Mr Singh became more frustrated.”
A hearing to determine remedies is yet to be scheduled.
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said Australian employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate workers with disabilities.
“In this case, Mr Lawton’s request to work from home on days when the lift was not operating seems like a reasonable request,” he said.
“In Australia, employers must make every effort to make reasonable adjustments to ensure people with a disability or impairment do not experience discrimination.”
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