Employee with autism discriminated against

A senior analyst on the autism spectrum has won a claim for indirect disability discrimination after his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for his condition. The employment judge said that the employer failed to take reasonable steps to understand the employee’s disability and failed to implement two sets of reasonable adjustments, one of which was recommended by its own in-house occupational health provider.

The employee’s manager stated in tribunal that she felt compelled to hold an informal discussion with the employee about his “disruptive and loud behaviour” on his second day. After a further meeting during which the manager warned the employee about his disruptive behaviour she stated that she would hold weekly catch up meetings with the employee but these did not happen.

The employee reported that he “felt subject to distraction”, and the “noise and smells” at work caused him distress. Hefelt he was not getting support from his colleagues so he tried to cope alone and he was not given sufficient work to keep him “occupied”.

The employee went off sick and was diagnosed by his GP with an anxiety disorder.  He underwent an autism assessment and was referred to occupational health on 11 April which made recommendations for his return to the workplace, confirming his autism and detailing that he would be regarded as disabled under the auspices of the Equality Act.

A welfare meeting was held to discuss the employee’s ability to attend work and followed it up with a letter stating that his absence “fell short” of the employer’s attendance requirements and mentioned of the possibility of offering him a lower-grade role.

After a difficult return to work in which the employee felt unsupported and ignored in terms of the recommendations to support his return, he brought complaints to the employment tribunal of indirect discrimination on the grounds of his disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments for his autism.

The Judge ruled in favour of the employee saying the employer failed to implement reasonable adjustments, inappropriately used its capability procedure and used “dismissal as a tool to rid themselves of a disabled employee”.

This demonstrates the need to follow professional advice from occupational health, to make reasonable adjustments to support employees with a disability and to ensure that absence is not used in a disciplinary setting when it is directly linked to a disability.

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