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Retailer Laura Ashley ‘discriminated against disabled manager’

Posted: 17th December 2019   In: Individual Employment

A manager at home furnishings retailer Laura Ashley was discriminated against because of her disability after her employers refused to change her shift patterns.

That was the ruling of the Employment Tribunal in a case involving sales manager Avril Iles.

Iles worked at the company from February 2015 until she resigned in August 2018.

She was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and told she needed a total replacement of her right knee. Iles booked the procedure for March 2017.

On her return to work, Iles struggled with her knee swelling up. She asked to be moved from the night shift when the problem was at its worst.

This request was met with resistance from Laura Ashley managers. One suggested she apply frozen peas to her knee during her break times and offered her the use of the staff freezer to store them.

On one shift when Iles had to leave early because of the pain, her manager April Robson commented: “It’s funny you could do an early shift but not a late shift.” 

This led to an altercation in an office in which Robson pinned Iles against the wall in an attempt to discuss matters further with her.

Iles raised a formal grievance detailing several issues including the lack of support she had received since returning to work, the alleged physical assault in the office, the sarcastic comments she was being subjected to, and the failure to alter her shifts to ease the stress on her knee.

Laura Ashley’s internal investigation found there was no evidence to suggest Iles had been discriminated against.

She resigned from her role and took the case to the Employment Tribunal.

It ruled in her favour and ordered Laura Ashley to pay Iles £18,991 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

In his summary, Employment Judge Buchanan said: “The lack of training for an employer with 3,000 employees was breathtaking and resulted in the managers committing grave errors in the way this disabled claimant was handled as a result of their startling ignorance of their duties.”

 Please contact Simran Lalli if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of employment law.