Cancer sufferer told to 'grow up' wins unfair dismissal claim

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that a manager who was told not to be a baby when he asked for time off due to kidney cancer was constructively dismissed.

The case involved Steve Pointon, who was general manager of Alpha Omega Security from 2015-2018.

He was signed off sick in June 2016 and diagnosed with cancer two months later. He had surgery in September and was signed off sick for six weeks.

Company director Ken Lawton said that Pointon would have a reduced workload when he returned. However, Pointon still struggled with the workload, especially as it coincided with a busy period leading up to Christmas.

Lawton would often make comments about how hard he was having to work and expressed disappointment that Pointon didn’t attend a function. It created an uncomfortable atmosphere for Pointon, making him feel guilty and under added stress.

He returned to work full time in 2017, when he was declared cancer free. However, a year later the cancer had returned and spread to his stomach.

He emailed Lawton to say that his family time had become more precious and that as he had worked over the weekend to prepare for a meeting and worked away from home three days in the last week,

he would not be attending a meal for the managers of the company.

Lawton said he didn’t appreciate that sort of email and that if his preparation wasn’t competed in work time it needed to be done in Pointon’s own time.

That atmosphere became increasingly frosty over the next few months. Lawton told Pointon he could reduce his hours with a pro rata reduction in pay.

Later there was a dispute over the rota and another director, Andrew Taylor, told Pointon that he was general manager and needed to provide more help and support.

During a meeting Pointon revealed that he may have to sign off sick, which led to Taylor telling him to grow up and not to be a baby.

Eventually, Pointon resigned after the company failed to notify him that his Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) was coming to an end. They also failed to provide him a form he needed to continue his benefits until 10 days after his SSP ended, which he felt was the final straw.

He resigned and claimed constructive, unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and harassment.

The judge ruled in his favour saying that while the company had reduced his workload, the reduction wasn’t sufficient or consistently applied as the workload often increased.

He added: “Mr Lawton’s behaviour fell well below what would have been acceptable in any workplace and was unwanted and created a hostile environment. Taking into account all the circumstances we accept that this was an act of harassment.”

Compensation will be decided at a separate hearing.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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