How the Employment Law Team at Martin Searle Solicitors succeeded in winning an Employment Tribunal claim, showing that our disabled client had been discriminated against and dismissed because of his disability. His compensation more than covered his £12,000 fees, leaving him with £22,000 compensation as he had entered into a No Win-No Fee Agreement with us.
Jim was employed as a Retail Supervisor at a service station and contacted our Brighton office.
Jim has a long-standing back problem and was unable to perform strenuous tasks, needed additional breaks, and required a regular shift pattern so that he could rest and take his medication properly. The original franchise owner, Mark, made a number of reasonable adjustments to accommodate Jim’s disability.
In 2017, a new owner, Stephen, took over who was unsympathetic. He expected Jim to work his shifts across a full 24-hour rota and carry out the same duties as everyone else.
Jim complained to Stephen several times and presented a “fit note” from his doctor. Stephen’s response was “I don’t take any notice of what doctors say, you have to work the same as everyone else”.
Jim felt the impact of the removal of his reasonable adjustment and became increasingly tired with extreme backache to the point that he was signed off work by his doctor. When Jim rang to report that he was too unwell to come into work, Stephen became angry and insisted he showed up.
When Jim attended a return to work meeting with Stephen and the Duty Manager, he complained again that he needed reasonable adjustments. The Duty Manager asked him “why don’t you get job elsewhere?”. Jim replied that he did not want a job elsewhere – he wanted to be treated fairly.
Stephen also asked one of the other retail workers to send a message to Jim, stating “there are no more hours for you as we have no light duties here”. Jim ignored this message and continued working without his reasonable adjustments.
The Duty Manager began to pick on him, issuing him with three warnings, two of which were for very small till shortages. Till shortages were common at this service station and were normally overlooked.
Jim was issued with three written warnings and then dismissed with immediate effect. All he received was a Statutory Redundancy Payment, despite being entitled to notice pay.
We issued a claim against Brighton Service Station and Stephen for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and disability discrimination.
At a Preliminary Hearing, we obtained a Deposit Order against the Company. We persuaded the Judge that the Company had no credible defence to Jim’s unfair dismissal claim. The Company subsequently admitted that Jim was unfairly dismissal and his treatment amounted to a breach of contract. The only remaining issue was whether Jim had been discriminated against.
We prepared Jim’s case for trial, including obtaining a Witness Statement from Mark, his previous employer, to confirm that it was well known in the business that Jim had a disability and reasonable adjustments were made for him. We also provided helpful evidence on frequency and common approach to minor till shortages.
We represented Jim at a 4-day hearing at London South Employment Tribunal.
The Employment Tribunal upheld the majority of Jim’s complaints.
In terms of the warnings and Jim’s dismissal, the Tribunal stated in its judgment “it is our unanimous conclusion that the Respondents acted as they did because of the adverse effect of [Jim’s] disability on his ability to perform the duties the [Company and Stephen] wished him to”. It continued “each of the warnings was wholly unjustified in light of the evidence that minor errors by those operating tills were never actioned as misconduct save in exceptional circumstances”. The Tribunal concluded “we simply could not accept that [Stephen and the Company’s] conduct in issuing these warnings was anything other than an artificial construct to enable them to dismiss the Claimant”.
The Tribunal awarded Jim more than £31,000 in compensation. He received £16,000 as compensation for his loss of earnings £15,000 for injury to feelings. The Tribunal increased those sums by 25% due to the Company’s failure to comply with the provisions of the Discipline and Grievance – Acas Code of Practice. This took Jim’s total award to over £36,000.
Jim’s legal costs were approximately £12,000 and as he had entered into a Damages Based Agreement, based on us taking 35%, he was left with £22,000.
Jim commented “thank you for all of your hard work and for providing top-quality advice and representation”.
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