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Shop worker wins disability discrimination claim after suffering paralysing migraine at work and being told ‘tough’ by boss

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Miss M Doran v Pearl Holdings NW Limited Mary Doran has, since 2003, suffered from intermittent chronic migraines. A letter from her consultant neurologist confirms this diagnosis and how her condition has been gradually deteriorating over the last 10 years. Her symptoms include visual disturbance and numbness from the shoulders down giving rise to her collapsing. An attack also affects her ability to speak and she becomes uncoordinated and confused. Miss Doran takes medication to control this condition, but still suffers attacks approximately once a week.

Miss Doran commenced employment at the Nisa Local store in Dukinfield in January 2021. The manager was Mr Maher, and she informed him of her condition. She experienced two migraine attacks at work in February 2021. She was told by her manager they would need to discuss her condition upon her return to work, he being disapproving of her absence in the circumstances.

Thereafter she began to feel that she was being treated differently by her manager, who became impatient with her and did not appear to take her condition seriously. In April 2021 Miss Doran suffered another migraine attack. She immediately informed the manager and asked if she could be sent home, but he refused. He said that it was “tough”, but he was not prepared to seek cover for her shift. She began to experience visual disturbance and could not see clearly enough to be able to serve customers.

At this point her manager sent her to the stock room and told her to sit on a foot stool until she felt better. She lost her balance and was forced to lie on the cold concrete. This would be apparent to her manager as the stock room was subject to surveillance by camera. Miss Doran was in the stock room for some two hours. No medical help was sought by her manager, and eventually a friend was called to take her home.

The following day Miss Doran saw her GP who issued her with a fit note for 14. Upon expiry of that fit note Miss Doran contacted Mr Maher to inform him that she was fit to return to work on restricted duties, with no going up and down stairs, and being allowed home in the event of a migraine attack. He replied by text message saying, “No hours available Mary”.

He told her he thought she should ‘step down from the role with all the health issues you have currently’, adding ‘your level of sickness is very high, and the unpredictability of your health and safety is worrying for you and myself, when your sick note is up I won’t be able to guarantee you hours’.

The tribunal heard Mr Maher hired three new members of staff and kicked Ms Doran out of the staff group chat, despite her still being employed.

She resigned in July 2021 before taking claims of disability discrimination to an employment tribunal. Employment Judge Paul Holmes ruled Mr Maher discriminated against Ms Doran by not letting her go home during a migraine attack and not letting her return to work.

He said: ‘Requiring her to remain at work (which, given that she could not do any work, was rather pointless) as [Mr Maher] did clearly amounts to a failure to comply with that duty [to make reasonable adjustments for her disability].

‘To offer her no more shifts, and to refuse to allow her to return to work…. [was] clearly because of something arising in consequence of her disability.’

Miss Doran was awarded £15,998.96.

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