Hotel ignored disabled chef’s rights

Posted: 22nd March 2016

EATIgnoring your workers’ employment rights can be extremely costly, both in financial and reputational terms. In one case of which all employers should take note, a hotel company was left facing a substantial compensation bill after breaking almost every rule in the book when one of its chefs developed a bad back.

The woman’s back pain was accompanied by depression and anxiety and her GP had recommended to her employer that she should not be required to carry any heavy loads. Her boss, however, made it clear that he would not be following that advice and that heavy lifting was an essential part of her job.

After the woman took action, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that that attitude amounted to indirect discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments to cater for the woman’s disability. She also succeeded in a harassment claim – after her boss described her as a troublemaker – and the ET found that she had been victimised by being deprived of two shifts as a result of lodging her complaints.

One aspect of the case was decided against her when the ET found that she had not been prevented from working beyond a particular date. That was on the basis that, after that date, she had not notified her employer that she was available for work. That ruling reduced the amount of compensation to which she was entitled.

In upholding her challenge to that part of the decision, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that her reason for not returning to work was her employer’s refusal to make reasonable adjustments for her and her understandable concern that she would be subjected to further ill-treatment. The case was sent back to a fresh ET for the amount of her award to be calculated.