RSS Feed

Legal Updates

More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

Disabled IT manager wins unfair dismissal claim after boss claims he was too ‘slow’ to evacuate office

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Lawton v Crystal Ball Limited Mr Lawton was an IT Manager at a small technology company operating in the surveillance field. The company’s business is underpinned by delivering an IT system to its customers at all times and maintaining a high standard of cyber security. It employs 12 staff and is based on the fifth floor of a modern office block in Stretford, Manchester.

The sole statutory director and owner of Crystal Ball Limited was Mr Singh. In February 2019 Mr Lawson’s knee buckled and he immediately started to suffer with constant pain within his lower left knee together with some light bruising. That was the commencement of his knee problems which, following various investigations, ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome

(“CRPS”). In addition to the pain, he suffers severe bruising under his skin and lesions can develop to his leg when anything touches it. This condition is ongoing. He had difficulty walking and walking up and down stairs caused him pain and real difficulty. His disability was not contested.

Mr Lawton was left ‘humiliated’ when he reached the bottom of five flights of stairs – only to be told he took too long evacuating after a fire drill. He was also asked by his employer why he spent so much time in the toilet. When he requested to work from home when the lift wasn’t working, ‘authoritarian’ boss Mr Raj Singh saw it as a ‘challenge to his authority’ and sought to remove him.

The tribunal heard that when occupational health advisers said Mr Lawton’s adjustments needed to be made, Mr Singh’s attitude towards him changed and he started ignoring him in the office. A tribunal report said: “Mr Singh does not appear to react well to challenges. Mr Lawton writing to Mr Singh advising him of his rights as a person with a disability, was seen by Mr Singh as a challenge to his authority and to run his business as he wished.”

Employment Judge Ann Benson said: “We have found that Mr Singh had a discriminatory reason for instigating disciplinary procedures against Mr Lawton. We consider that Mr Singh had an agenda to remove Mr Lawton from the business. This was a progressive situation which intensified over time as Mr Singh became more frustrated.”

Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)