Out of sight, out of mind - woman shipyard worker sacked unfairly after developing arthritis11 July 2007
31-year old woman, who was sacked by her employer, A&P Falmouth, four years after being diagnosed with an arthritic type disability, has won her case for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
The ship repair company involved was criticised by an employment tribunal for adopting an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to her plight.
Louise Brooks from Falmouth, a member of the T&G section of Unite - the union, started at the yard when she was 16 but had to stop work prematurely in September 2002 at the age of 27 after complaining of aching pains in her arms. Her job dismantling and reassembling dockyard equipment involved repetitive work undoing and doing up small nuts which required high levels of dexterity and strength in her wrists.
As a right-handed person she felt the pains particularly on her right hand side. She was diagnosed as having an arthritic type disability and signed off as sick in 2002. After spending the greater part of four years unpaid she was sacked in June 2006.
The Truro Tribunal was told A&P only contacted her approximately once a year and never discussed any other suitable work for her before offering her a job as a typist. Yet company documents, which have now come to light, show there were around fifteen other jobs which she could have done which were available at varying times in the four year period before her dismissal. These positions were not even discussed with Miss Brooks.
Backed by her union and represented by Thompsons Solicitors Miss Brooks won her case after successfully arguing that A&P discriminated against her by not making reasonable adjustments or alternative offers of work in the yard and that, therefore, she was sacked unfairly.
"Louise's working life was A&P straight from school but it was A&P who denied her a future and showed amazing insensitivity by offering her a typing job without adjustments," said Mark Gray of Thompsons. "It was the fact she was backed by her trade union and determined to fight for justice that this company has now been held to account."
Details of what compensation Miss Brooks will be awarded will be determined by the tribunal later this year.