A North East factory worker who was left disabled after working night shifts, was discriminated against by his employers, a tribunal has found.

Craig Routledge, 41, of Merton, County Durham, became depressed after working alternate day and night shifts for TRW Systems in Washington.

The punishing routine left him registered disabled after the sleep deprivation caused him to become depressed.

A Newcastle Employment Tribunal upheld claims of disability discrimination brought against TRW Systems by Craig’s union, the GMB and their lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors.

Discriminated against at Work

The tribunal ruled that the company, which manufactures car parts, had indirectly discriminated against Craig’s disability by not giving him assurances that they would provide a full time day job for him after he became too ill to work nights.

It also ruled that TRW Systems had discriminated against his disability by not offering to make adjustments in the work place to allow him to return to work.

Craig, who has worked as a manufacturing technician for the firm for 12 years, was signed off sick in May 2005 with depression, caused by lack of sleep.

The 11-hour shifts and disturbed sleep pattern left him unable to function and he often found himself falling asleep at the wheel of his car on his way home from work.

Craig said he reached breaking point when his body clock became so confused, instead of sleeping he found himself gardening at 3am. At one stage he woke up to find himself driving along a grass verge.

His doctor told him he needed to take time off work to allow his sleep pattern to return to normal and later advised that he should not work night shifts until he had had made a full recovery.

Craig’s disability deteriorated when TRW Systems did not make assurances that he would not be needed to work night shifts in the future.

Craig is still employed by TRW Systems, which announced recent profits in excess of £1m, but is currently on sick leave.

He said: “I have worked for TRW Systems for 12 years but it got to the stage that I was so tired I had no energy for my kids or my family.

“I felt terrible. I wasn’t able to concentrate and it was becoming dangerous at work.

“The GMB and Thompsons Solicitors have helped me to fight this and the outcome has given me the security that I can return to work when I am fully recovered.”

GMB regional organiser, Mark Wilson added: “We are delighted that Craig has won his tribunal. There were times in his employment where he only saw daylight or darkness.

“All he was asking for was help and the company never gave him the help that he needed. We were happy to help him fight to ensure that his working environment was more suited to his needs.”

Paul Shevlin, solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors said: “In partnership with the GMB we have been able to ensure that Craig’s rights are maintained. We hope he can now go on to make a full recovery and can return to work at his own pace.”

Craig will return to the tribunal later this year for a remedies hearing where the tribunal will decide on the level of compensation TRW Systems will pay him.