A disabled mother-of-three has won her claim for discrimination in the Employment Tribunal after it was found that her employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate her disability.
Mrs Karen Sharpe, 44, who has the neurological condition multiple sclerosis (MS), made her Employment Tribunal claim after she had a dispute with her employer, Boots Opticians, over the distance of toilets in the workplace from her desk. The Employment Tribunal found in Mrs Sharpe’s favour in her claims and awarded her £14,000 in compensation.
Mrs Sharpe’s problems at her former employer started in November 2012 when she suffered a relapse of her condition, meaning that her mobility was severely reduced and that she was forced to walk using a stick. She was based on the first floor of the Boots Opticians in Carlisle but there was no toilet on the first floor, meaning that she regularly had to walk 10 minutes to reach the store’s ground floor toilet. She complained about this in late 2012 and subsequently resigned in June 2013 after it became clear that the store was not going to act on her requests for a toilet to be installed on the first floor. She subsequently made Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination and the case came to the Employment Tribunal earlier this year.
Mrs Sharpe gave evidence at the Employment Tribunal about her attempts to arrange for the installation of a toilet on the first floor of the Carlisle branch of Boots Opticians, stating that she had contacted Access to Work and that Access to Work had agreed to pay approximately 80% of the cost of installing the toilet. However, she gave evidence that she became increasingly frustrated over Boot’s failure to inform her as to what was happening with the situation and subsequently resigned in June 2013. She said that she felt ultimately that the company did not show any desire to adjust her workplace in a way that would have made it possible for her to return to her job as a senior optical consultant. Boots Opticians denied discriminating against her.
The Employment Tribunal ruled in Mrs Sharpe’s favour in her claims for disability-related discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments, and constructive unfair dismissal, and she was awarded £14,000 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.
A Boots Opticians spokeswoman later commented: “We respect the decision of the employment tribunal, acknowledge that we could have acted quicker and apologise to Mrs Sharpe for any upset this may have caused.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “Employers have an obligation towards their disabled employees not to discriminate against them on the basis of their disability. If an employer does discriminate against an employee because of their disability then they risk an Employment Tribunal claim being brought against them.”