A recent case, Fairbrother v. Abbey National plc , involved an employee who had been an account manager since March 1998. The employee suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a fact that was not known to the employer at the time. Can I be fired for not working overtime? She applied for the job, which became clear after she took her position. In the initial period of work, she developed good relations with colleagues. However, the situation changed in 2002, when two of her colleagues became less favorable towards her and another employee, R.
Since then, she has been ridiculed for her obsessive-compulsive disorder and low-level behavior, which was mainly aimed at upsetting her condition. R. was ridiculed for her seeming poor performance, and both R. and the co-worker were ostracized. The situation worsened to the point where the two offending colleagues only communicated with the employee via email, despite the fact that they were all in the same office. After a particularly stressful week on July 25, 2003, an employee left. She informed Regional Manager N of the issues that led to her dismissal and he began investigating the complaint.
Two colleagues admitted that they behaved inappropriately towards the employee during this week, and then both apologized to N. This result of the investigation was passed on to the employee and she was advised to arrange for a “cup of tea” with two of her colleagues to try resolve your differences. She was also told that she could face a disciplinary hearing for leaving on the 25th. On August 13, she wrote N a letter outlining the events leading up to her departure, but the letter did not mention her obsessive-compulsive disorder.
After a meeting with F.’s employer’s human resources officer, it was decided that a full investigation into the events of the week of 21 July 2003 should be carried out. One month after this meeting, the staff member asked for an investigation into the events prior to that week. The second request was denied by the employer. A grievance redress meeting was then held to discuss the employee’s allegations that she had been bullied at work and that N had failed to properly conduct the initial investigation. These complaints were dismissed, which led the worker to appeal the decision.
All complaints filed by the employee were then investigated and on 9 February 2004 all of her complaints were dismissed. Subsequently, on 7 July 2004, she resigned on the grounds that her employer had failed to bring her complaints to a reasonable resolution. The employee then sued in labor court for unfair dismissal because she was discriminated against because of her condition.
The court ruled that she was dismissed unfairly because the employer’s lengthy complaint procedure had a number of serious flaws, which meant that the employer behaved in a way that irreparably undermined the relationship of mutual trust between him and the employee. . The employee’s claim of discrimination was upheld on the grounds that her treatment by her colleagues was harmful and that there was a difference between the treatment she received and the treatment R received. The employer then filed an appeal.
The employer argued that the labor court erred in finding unfair dismissal based on alleged shortcomings in the complaints procedure. They claimed that:-
§ The Tribunal did not consider whether the complaint procedure was within the range of reasonable responses available to the employer.
§ The Tribunal was wrong to limit its consideration to the question of whether the worker was treated differently; as well as
§ The Tribunal had to consider whether the employee was treated less favorably.
The appeal was allowed.
§ It was found that the tribunal erred in not considering whether the employer’s conduct fell within the range of reasonable responses available to it in investigating the employee’s complaint.
§ The Tribunal based its decision on shortcomings found at the beginning of the complaint procedure and, although these shortcomings were corrected during the course of the investigation, it still erroneously found that the employer had unfairly dismissed the worker.
§ In addition to this, the evidence presented to the tribunal, including evidence that R. had been subjected to treatment similar to that complained of by the staff member, showed that the relationship between the staff member and the two offending colleagues had deteriorated and therefore the conduct was not related to her obsessive-compulsive disorder.
§ In these circumstances this unfair work treatment , the tribunal should not have allowed the worker’s claim of disability discrimination.
Therefore, the worker’s claims were rejected.