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Disabled Worker Sacked For Taking Too Long To Evacuate During Fire Drill

Disabled worker sacked for taking too long to evacuate during fire drill

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, Mr Lawton worked as an IT Manager for 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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Reasonable adjustments

Lawton asked to work from home whenever the lift was not working – a request which the tribunal found offended Singh who considered it a “challenge to his authority”.

As a result, Singh’s attitude towards Lawton 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, the tribunal found the company had discriminated against Lawton the basis of disability, and his dismissal was therefore 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,” Employment Judge Ann Benson said.

A hearing to determine remedies is yet to be scheduled.


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THE EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL’S FULL REASONS FOR JUDGMENT


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