Disabled employee awarded £38,681.31 in Whistleblowing Case

14 May 2015

Disabled employee awarded ?£38,681.31 on the grounds that he was less favourably treated and dismissed for "whistleblowing".

AB –v- Chemtest Ireland Ltd Case Ref: 1731/14 Decision dated 27th April 2015.

In a recent decision of the Industrial Tribunal for Northern Ireland our client, AB*, was awarded £38,681.31 in respect of compensation for his Unfair Dismissal by Chemtest Ireland Ltd as a result of making a protected disclosure, and the “substantial” Injury caused to his feelings.

AB, who was employed in the post of Deputy Technical and Quality Manager, had worked for the Respondent for a number of months when he raised concerns over, amongst other things, contamination, and air ventilation in the laboratory. This subsequently led to a breakdown in the relationship between him and his manager, causing AB considerable stress and upset.

AB suffers from Bipolar Disorder, and recent stress caused his condition to flare up, resulting in him being off work for three weeks on sick leave. During this time he submitted sick lines to cover his absence. However during this time he was contacted by the Respondent and asked to attend a Disciplinary Meeting; allegedly as a result of failing to comply with absence reporting requirements, and failure to answer work calls whilst on sick leave.

AB was not well enough to attend this meeting, and asked that the meeting be rearranged until he was fit to attend same. This was agreed to, however the Respondent then proceeded to hold the Disciplinary Meeting in his absence, and he was dismissed. AB appealed this decision however the appeal was not upheld.

In a condemning decision of the Respondent the Tribunal Panel remarked that:

“It is astounding to us that an employer would dismiss someone after less than three weeks of sickness absence when the employee had not had the opportunity to attend a disciplinary hearing or to state their side of the story”. [78]

They continued:

“The dismissal procedure and the appeal were, frankly, a shambles. It is questionable as to whether the Claimant’s conduct even merited disciplinary action, but we are persuaded that the way this entire matter was dealt with is confirmation that the respondent seized on the first available ‘blip’ in the claimant’s conduct to get rid of someone they perceived as a difficult employee” [80]

The Tribunal found the way the Respondent had dealt with AB’s illness was ‘breathtaking’, and that his diagnosis of bipolar disorder “appears to have reinforced his [Mr Hempson’s] decision to uphold the appeal [in favour of the Respondent]… Unfortunately the Claimant’s perception that there is a stigma attached to mental illness has some substance”. [83]

The Tribunal Panel held that:

 

  • The Claimant had been automatically unfairly dismissed on the grounds of making a protected disclosure under Art 134 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996;
  • The Claimant had suffered a detriment as a result of having made the protected disclosure under Art 67 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996; and
  • The Respondent failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments for the Claimant on the grounds of his disability, as a result of which the Claimant suffered injury to feelings.

 

AB was represented by Mr Niall McMullan of Worthingtons Solicitors. Client’s identity has been redacted for confidentiality reasons

 

Niall McMullan is an Associate Parnter with the Employment Department of Worthingtons Solicitors. Submit any queries in relation to this article in the form below and a member of our Employment team will be happy to contact you. 

 

 

 

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