The Fire Brigades Union and Thompsons Solicitors have secured a ground breaking victory for a firefighter who was sacked for asking colleagues if the brigade’s “Calcot” reclining chairs were hurting their backs.

Christopher Bennett sent an email about the Greater Manchester Fire Service’s insistence that he used a chair that was aggravating a back condition while he worked on nightshifts. He was dismissed for gross misconduct and lost an appeal.

An employment tribunal found that his right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act had been breached and that his dismissal was unfair. Thompsons secured an out-of-court settlement of £80,000, more than the statutory cap for these types of cases

Mr Bennett had asked the brigade if he could use his own rest mattress after the Calcot chairs replaced the beds used by firefighters on night shifts. He said that the Brigade had a duty under the Disability Discrimination Act to make reasonable adjustments by allowing him to do so.

But the Brigade told him to use the chairs or rest on the benches in the snooker room.

Mr Bennett said: “Without the support of the FBU I would not have been able to get justice in my case.”

Steve Shelton, Fire Brigades Union Official who had represented Mr Bennett during his disciplinary hearings, said “I always knew that Chris had been treated unfairly by the fire authority and that he should not have lost his job for speaking out about his concerns for safety. It’s reassuring to know that the law recognises this and that our legal advisors were able to successfully argue that the Human Rights Act be applied to Chris’s case.”