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Boxer loses unfair dismissal claim after month long coma following fight

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton
Justice

In Mr Gary Murray v SP Transmission Mr Murray worked for Scottish Power as a Linesperson. His work involved the maintenance and repair of high-powered electrical distribution lines, cables and systems, plus emergency repairs. This included inspecting overhead power lines and working at height on transmission towers.

In 2017 Mr Murray suffered a traumatic brain injury during a professional boxing match. He required immediate surgery and spent nearly a month in hospital, having been put into an induced coma, and suffered short term memory issues. He was at this time medically advised to be unfit to drive.

He returned to his job as an overhead power linesman for Scottish Power on lighter duties, but was later declared medically unfit for his role. However, Mr Murray ‘strongly disputed’ the conclusion and was left frustrated as he was eager to return to work, eventually resigning as he claimed he was ‘left with no choice’.

He tried to sue the energy giant for disability discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal but has now lost his case. A tribunal report said: “His evidence was that by September 15, 2020, having exhausted the grievance procedure, he finally accepted that [the company] would not allow him to return to his job as a linesperson.”

Writing to bosses, Mr Murray said: “I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position of overhead linesman at Scottish Power with immediate effect. I feel that I am left with no choice but to resign in light of my recent experiences and Scottish Power’s failure to allow me to return to my role as overhead linesman.”

The tribunal panel reached a majority conclusion that Scottish Power did not discriminate Mr Murray. Employment Judge Sandy Meiklejohn said: “We considered that [the company] was entitled to seek to operate its business as efficiently as possible while complying with all legal obligations incumbent on it. In not allowing Mr Murray to return to work when he was assessed to be not medically fit to work overtime and standby hours, the [company] did not act in breach of an express term of his contract of employment.”

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