Major retailer unfairly dismissed autistic employee

A tribunal has found that a leading retailer unfairly dismissed an autistic employee after a colleague complained about his behaviour. The Claimant had been employed for seven years and was hired as part of a scheme implemented to support people with disabilities to find work. 

A colleague complained about his conduct after he leaned against her back and side one evening which she felt was sexual and made her uncomfortable and frightened.  The employee was arrested, but later released and the case was dealt with by means of a community resolution order. The employee had stated that leaning on people for comfort was a common trait of his when he was in distress, due to his autism, and something he does with his parents. 

The tribunal heard that reasonable adjustments were not always adhered to, and particularly after a change in manager. These included in allowing the employee to take breaks when overwhelmed and providing a consistent schedule. Following an internal investigation, the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct.

However, a tribunal upheld claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability. An award is still to be determined but it is worth remembering that claims for discrimination are not capped.

Where an employee has a disability, this should be taken into account during an investigation and this might include seeking medical input regarding the extent to which a disability may have influenced the employee’s action.  

Employers must ensure that thorough investigations are conducted before taking any decision to dismiss. 121 HR Solutions are running training workshops covering this subject on 1st November in both Glasgow and Montrose. Book today to ensure your managers are equipped with knowledge on how to conduct a thorough investigation.

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