Disability Discrimination And The Menopause: Employee Reinstated After Menopause Mix-Up

Year Published: 2018

A Scottish Employment Tribunal has heard a case involving disability discrimination and ruled The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) must reinstate an employee who was fired for confusion over whether her own medication for her menopause symptoms had been drunk by two men. SCTS must also pay the employee £19,000 compensation which includes an award for discrimination.

What happened during this disability discrimination case?

Warren Moores, Employment Law & HR Solicitor at SAS Daniels

Warren Moores, Employment Law & HR Solicitor

Mandy Davis had worked for SCTS as a Court Officer since 1997 and had an immaculate disciplinary record. Ms Davis had struggled with health problems for a number of years relating to menopause onset. This caused her heavy bleeding (sometimes lasting for a number of weeks), blurred vision, headaches, memory loss and pins and needles in her hands and feet. In February 2017, Ms Davis’ doctor prescribed her Cystopurin – a granulated medication that is dissolved in water. Ms Davis kept the medication on her desk within a pencil case.

One day in February 2017 Ms Davis return to her desk following a court adjournment and noticed her personal items had been removed from her pencil case and the water jug on her desk emptied. As there were two men in the court drinking water Ms Davis asked where their water had come from, to which one of the men explained that a clerk had provided it. She explained if the water was from the jug on her desk it may have been diluted with her medication. One man present launched into a furious rant and accused her of ‘trying to poison the two old guys in the court’ and making him ‘grow boobs’.

There was confusion in the employer’s health and safety investigation over whether Ms Davis did put her medication in the water because she initially told the investigator she did but a more detailed investigation concluded she must not have done otherwise the water would be been coloured pink. It also concluded Ms Davis would, and should, have been aware of this. Ms Davis acknowledged she may have been incorrect and provided an amended statement, however, the SCTS, decided there was a disciplinary case to answer for because she had shown no remorse and had ‘not shown [the SCTS’s] values and behaviours’.

During the disciplinary process Ms Davis explained that when she noticed her pencil case was open she became flustered and agitated. She cited anxiety attacks which made her forgetful. SCTS referred Ms Davis to occupational health who confirmed she had menopausal symptoms including severe anemia, tiredness, light headedness and fainting. Despite this, the SCTS dismissed Ms Davis.

The Scottish Tribunal found Ms Davis was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her disability, particularly as the SCTS had failed to consider how her disability impacted her decision making. It concluded the Health and Safety investigation had gone way beyond its remit and Ms Davis was legitimately confused.

As a results, SCTS was required to reinstate Ms David but also pay £19,000 which included £5,000 compensation for injury to feelings with the remainder as compensation for lost of pay between the date she was fired and her reinstatement.

What should employers be aware of following this case?

There are very few cases which deal with the aspect of whether going through the menopause could constitute a disability. This case highlights how, providing the symptoms a women suffers have a substantial and adverse impact on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities, menopause can actually constitute a disability.

For further information on disability discrimination or any other employment law matters, please contact Warren Moores 0161 475 1225.

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