The claimant was dismissed after speaking in the store to his cousin and co-worker in what was described as a loud and threatening manner. He said it was his stammer that caused him to raise his voice unusually and to gesticulate. The tribunal seems to have held his stammer was a disability. Even so his disability discrimination claim failed.
Employment Tribunal, 2012. News reports at www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2147701/Stuttering-Asda-worker-sacked-desperate-efforts-speak-interpretted-aggressive-behaviour.html on the preliminary decision, and www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-19592341 on the final decision.
The claimant was dismissed over allegations that he harassed and bullied his cousin and co-worker in a dispute over money. A customer in the store complained that they had witnessed him speaking to his cousin in a loud and threatening manner. The cousin also lodged a complaint.
He argued that he had a stammer which caused him to raise his voice unusually. He insisted his loudness was not aggressive but simply a result of his condition. He said his stammer got worse the more stressed he got, sometimes gesticulating and moving his body as he struggled to speak. He said that when he approached his cousin, who was working at a check-out till at the same branch, he was “afflicted with the stutter and could not squeeze out the words he wanted to say”.
He said there was a failure to understand that his stammer caused him to raise his voice and gesture wildly.
Held: His stammer was a disability, but the Employment Tribunal seems to have rejected his claim for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Employment Tribunal decision
The judge in a preliminary hearing appears to have accepted that he had a disability. The judge there is quoted as saying “‘He has been dismissed for a reason related to his disability, in part – raising his voice and moving his body.”
However at a full hearing his claim for disability discrimination evidently failed. The reasons are not clear. According to a news report, Asda had argued that irrespective of his stammer its decision to dismiss him was made on the basis of his actions towards his cousin.
I have not seen the tribunal decisions. The summary of the facts and decision above is based on the news reports linked above.
This is only one of at least three cases where a claimant argued that behaviour perceived as shouting or threatening, which led to their dismissal, was a result of their stammer. See Losing one’s job>Misconduct, such as sounding “aggressive”.