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Victory for Asthmatic Warehouse Worker Required to Work on Top Floor

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

An asthmatic warehouse worker who had difficulty climbing stairs, but was required to work on the building’s top floor, has won the right to compensation on the basis that reasonable adjustments had not been made to cater for her disability.

Following a restructuring exercise, the woman had been transferred from the ground floor of the warehouse to the top floor. Although vacancies existed on the ground floor, priority in respect of them had been given to longer-serving employees. The woman was ultimately dismissed on grounds of incapacity to do her job.

An Employment Tribunal (ET) subsequently ruled that there had been a failure to make reasonable adjustments but appeared to limit its findings to the woman’s financial losses alone. It further rejected her claim that her dismissal itself amounted to an act of discrimination in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

In allowing her appeal, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that the ET’s findings had been unnecessarily limited to economic losses and should also have embraced physical discomfort, exacerbation of her asthma and any other detriments that she had endured as a result of working on the top floor.

The ET had also erred in law in failing to address the woman’s claim that there was a specific vacancy which would have been suitable for her. Additionally, there had been a failure to consider whether her dismissal amounted to unfavourable treatment arising in consequence of her disability. Those elements of her case were sent back for reconsideration by the same ET, which would also rule upon the amount of compensation due to her.

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