Failed to make reasonable adjustments for his autism

Tom Sherbourne, a senior analyst at npower won a claim for indirect disability discrimination after his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for his autism.

Sherbourne worked in an open-plan office with a busy thoroughfare behind him, causing him to feel distracted and overwhelmed.

There were also building works going on around him which added to his agitation.

Whilst these symptoms are well recognised with autism, his manager saw his behaviour as disruptive, argumentative and agitated and she had a number of chats with him about his “unacceptable behaviour”.

Things got worse for Sherbourne.

He became distressed about changes to personnel sitting near him resulting in his need for frequent toilet breaks and causing him to sweat profusely.

He said he felt “distracted” and the “noise and smells” at work caused him distress.

In Feb 2018, Sherbourne suffered what he described as a ‘breakdown’ at work, and said he had suicidal thoughts.

His manager described this as a “bit of a meltdown”.

Sherbourne went off sick with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

Npower referred him to their OH team who made several recommendations for his return to work.

Sherbourne’s manager did not implement any of the recommendations, citing “inadequate training”, instead invoking the capability process in May 18.

Little regard was given for Shelbourne’s personal situation and the capability process continued, almost as a “tick box exercise”, but without regard for any of the adjustments that had been recommended, despite his manager admitting that they would all have been possible.

Sherbourne was dismissed in August 18.

The tribunal ruled that npower failed to take reasonable steps to understand Sherbourne’s disability and failed to implement two sets of reasonable adjustments, one of which was recommended by its own in-house doctor.

The tribunal Judge determined that npower had used its capability procedure as a “tool to rid themselves of a disabled employee”.

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