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Personal Trainer with hygiene anxiety was discriminated against

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of A Burton v Nuffield Health, Ms A Burton was employed as a Personal Fitness Trainer at the Crawley branch of fitness chain Nuffield Health. Her work involved assisting clients in the gym and selling her services to them as a personal fitness trainer.

Burton suffers from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (“GAD”) and her disorder is triggered as a result of cleanliness and hygiene issues because of which she suffers from panic attacks and intrusive thinking, becomes upset and emotional and suffers from loss of energy and disturbed sleep.

During her interview, her mental health issues were briefly mentioned. She had a call with Occupational Health during her induction where she explained her medical background in full and OH advised her not to undertake hygiene related tasks as this could be a trigger for her GAD.

However, senior general manager Mr Foord – who had not been made aware of Burton’s condition – asked her to collect sweaty towels from the gym floor. Burton claimed that when she explained that she couldn’t pick them up because of her mental health, he replied, “we all have to do things that are unpleasant” and suggested that she pick them up with gloves on.

Following several unproductive meetings and conversations with the subsequent covering manager who the tribunal said appeared “out of her depth” in taking over line management of Burton and appeared to have no training in how to handle the discussion “appropriately”, Burton raised a grievance.

In its ruling, the tribunal said Nuffield Health lacked “adequate arrangements” for communicating important information about Burton’s condition, and that this formed part of an “ongoing discriminatory state of affairs”.

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