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Factory worker wins unfair dismissal claim after attacking colleague in ‘diabetic rage’

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Mr P Dytkowski v Brand FB Ltd, Mr Dytkowski was a long-standing employee working as a Process Operative in a food production environment undertaking various roles in the biscuit-making process. Mr Dytkowski has a hearing impairment. In March 2018 he was also diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes.

This was a difficult diagnosis for Mr Dytkowski to accept and to manage. He received commendable support from the occupational health nurse, Margaret Hornby. Ms Hornby helped to arranged adjustments to his work including short breaks to check his blood sugar, regular eating times, time off to attend appointments and no overtime.

In August 2018 there was an incident where Mr Dytkowski was concerned about his blood sugar levels and felt that he needed a break. He asked his supervisor, Egle Vaisutyte, to arrange this. It was difficult to accommodate a break at that time due to the need for Production Operatives to be covering certain areas. It appears there was some confusion over whether Ms Vaisutyte had refused the break, or whether she was getting cover, but the claimant ended up shouting at Ms Vaisutyte, who then escalated the matter to management.

This was dealt with by Nick Bourne (Production Manager) who spoke to Mr Dytkowski about controlling his temper. There was no formal disciplinary action, and Mr Dytkowski retained his clean disciplinary record. The notes of the investigation meeting arising out of that incident record Mr Bourne commenting that “you are more angry than you used to be. I don’t know why” and “your temper comes quicker.”

In December 2018, Dytkowski took offence after a colleague made a comment about his late arrival to a meeting. After the meeting, he approached the colleague and was either “grabbing his clothes or pushing him” while shouting at him in Polish. A disciplinary process was initiated and Dytkowski was suspended. The factory worker admitted to bosses what he did was wrong but outlined his ‘theory’ that his diabetes meant he was ‘unable to control his emotions’ and he ‘exploded in rage’. However production manager Nick Bourne dismissed him.

At the tribunal, Mr Dytkowski was ‘very frank’ that he had sought but failed to get evidence from his clinicians which supported his view, explaining doctors ‘could not say for sure’. But Employment Judge Joanne Dunlop agreed with him and ruled that he was discriminated on grounds of his disability and unfairly dismissed.

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