Recent Employment Tribunal ruling – sleep disorder is a disability

An employee with 23 years’ “loyal” service who was sacked a month after telling his employer that he suffered from a sleep breathing disorder was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled.

The Tribunal heard that the employee worked as a warehouse associate for more than two decades until he was dismissed for misconduct in September 2016, after an updated automated quality-control system picked up inaccuracies in his work.
His role involved carrying out a wide range of duties, from driving to picking and packing, and had performed many duties in his years of service for the company, whose business was to distribute and market automobile parts and accessories.
In May 2016, however, the claimant’s driving licence was revoked after he was thought to be suffering from sleep apnoea. He was moved to a different area of work, where he could pick on foot. The company gave him a final written warning one month later, in June 2016.

The employee had received a first verbal warning in December 2015, followed by a written warning in April 2016, after the company introduced a strict points-based error management system to the workplace to reduce picking errors.

The decision to dismiss followed an investigation and disciplinary hearing during which the employee’s medical condition was disregarded as the manager concluded that health issues were not the reason for the high level of errors.

The tribunal accepted that the claimant had been unfairly dismissed.

The judge said that the company failed to take the employee’s length of service into account and that there was no evidence that there was any discussion with the claimant about his condition or conditions, and any impact it might have had on his performance. He concluded that a reasonable employer, given an employee with 23 years’ service, would have considered with an open mind whether there was some alternative work that could be done.

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