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Veteran Prison Officer in Disability Discrimination Victory

A veteran prison officer who was sacked after the autoimmune disorder from which she suffered prevented her from working full time was discriminated against due to her disability and dismissed unfairly, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled.

The woman had been employed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for 14 years and, despite her health problems, had managed to work 35 hours a week. However, her condition had deteriorated following a bout of shingles and she had not fully recovered before she was dismissed.

She had not yet been able to return to her normal hours and the prison governor decided that she was unlikely to be medically capable of again taking up her full duties. He was also not prepared to make adjustments by reducing her working hours and workload.

An Employment Tribunal (ET) found that she had been unfairly dismissed, that she had suffered direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of her disability and that reasonable adjustments could and should have been made to enable her to carry on working.

In dismissing the MoJ’s challenge to those findings, the EAT rejected arguments that the real reason for her dismissal was her inability to do her job. The ET’s reasoning could not be faulted and the MoJ had failed to establish that there was a potentially fair reason for her dismissal.

The woman had been awarded £67,120 in compensation by the ET. However, the EAT ruled that the ET’s findings in respect of past and future losses and pension losses were unsustainable. Those aspects of the case were sent back to the ET for reconsideration.