Asking for reasonable adjustments resulted in dismissal

A disabled employability adviser who was dismissed after asking for a suitable work chair during lockdown was a victim of disability discrimination, a tribunal has ruled.

The tribunal heard that the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments that placed the employee at a “substantial disadvantage” when compared with non-disabled employees, because he was unable to work while sitting on a dining chair.

The tribunal ruled that this disadvantage may have been mitigated by providing a suitable chair, which was an auxiliary aid. The employee had a variety of disabilities, including osteoarthritis of the knee, and leg pains resulting in restricted.

When Covid forced the employee to have to work from home he undertook a ‘working from home risk assessment’ which revealed that he would need reasonable adjustments because he couldn’t function comfortably while sitting at his dining room table on a dining room chair. The employer suggested that the employee collect is office chair from the building but as he was shielding he was unable to leave his home. The employer did nothing more to assist.

After raising a grievance the employee was dismissed by the operational director over the phone. Due to the employee not having two years’ service, the employer did not provide a right to appeal.

The employment judge ruled that the employee was entitled to reasonable accommodations to work from home which resulted directly from his disability. The employee was awarded £11,062.50 for loss of earnings, and £15,000 for injury to feelings – a total compensation (including interest) of £29,620.79.

This case is a reminder to employers that an employee does not require qualifying service to raise a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act, and that employers must comply with their legal obligations if asking employees to work from home. This employee had additional legal duties under the Equality Act towards this employee and they failed to comply with them. Where a home worker has a disability, the provision of equipment is likely to be required as a reasonable adjustment.

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