Amazon Employee With Anxiety Unfairly Dismissed After He Missed Morning Meetings

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Amazon Employee With Anxiety Unfairly Dismissed After He Missed Morning Meetings
Photo Credits - ANIRUDH via Unsplash

An Amazon employee with anxiety and bipolar disorder was treated unfairly by being required to attend a morning meeting with an occupational health specialist, an Employment Tribunal has ruled. Read on to learn more about the facts of the case and the Employment Tribunal’s decision. Then, gain insight into how neurodivergent employees can manage their condition(s) in the workplace.

What Exactly Happened?

Mr R Paterson worked as a capacity planner for Amazon UK. His employment commenced in July 2021, and he continued to work from home following the Coronavirus pandemic. Communication with colleagues took place via video call, and Mr Paterson engaged appropriately in team discussions.

In October 2022, the Amazon employee with anxiety was required to begin attending face-to-face meetings with his manager. Here, concerns surrounding his performance were regularly raised. Mr Paterson acknowledged his manager’s concerns and expressed a desire to improve.

Read: Insurance Firm Introduces Sensory Maps: What Are They and How Do They Help?

However, in March 2023, his manager decided that he hadn’t adequately improved and provided him with two options. Either he could leave Amazon with a settlement offer or commence a formal performance improvement plan. Mr Paterson was required to communicate his decision by 17 March; however, he began sick leave on 13 March due to social anxiety.

Medical History of the Amazon Employee with Anxiety Unveiled

On 21 March, Mr Paterson disclosed his medical history, comprising general and social anxiety and previous hospitalisation with bipolar disorder. His symptoms varied daily, sometimes having little effect but at other times, resulting in panic attacks and isolation.

That same day, Mr Paterson submitted a formal grievance with respect to his performance improvement plan. He alleged that his employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his mental health conditions. Subsequently, a meeting with an occupational health specialist was scheduled for 7 June at 08:45 am. This was despite Mr Paterson’s request for an afternoon meeting due to the effects of his medication in the mornings.

Consequently, the Amazon employee with anxiety resigned on 6 July 2023. He brought various claims against Amazon, including unfair dismissal, discrimination, and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

What Did the Employment Tribunal Say?

Mr Paterson’s claim was heard by Judge Sangster in Edinburgh. Having heard the facts, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Mr Paterson had been put at a “substantial disadvantage”. This was because Amazon had required him to attend a morning meeting despite disclosing the effects of his medication.

Amazon Employee with Anxiety was at a “Substantial Disadvantage”

The tribunal stated that “the respondent was aware that the claimant was a disabled person at that time and that he would be placed at that substantial disadvantage in comparison to those who do not have the same disability”. Amazon should, therefore, have rearranged the time of the meeting to accommodate Mr Paterson’s needs, the tribunal held.

Read: Why HR Needs to Prioritise Training on Neurodiversity

As Amazon wasn’t aware of Mr Paterson’s conditions before 21 March, claims regarding discrimination before that date weren’t upheld. Similarly, claims for unfair dismissal, direct discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, harassment, and additional failures to make reasonable adjustments were also dismissed. In closing, the Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Paterson £1,596.99 as compensation for injury to feelings.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity refers to natural variants in brain function which result in particular personality or behavioural characteristics. Examples of neurodiverse conditions include bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Estimates show that almost 20% of people in the UK have some form of neuro difference, and it’s therefore crucial for employers to ensure that they are able to provide appropriate support to neurodiverse employees. However, according to CIPD research, 20% of neurodiverse employees have suffered harassment or discrimination at work due to their condition.

The case involving the Amazon employee with anxiety, highlights the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace.
Photo Credits – Robina Weermeijer via Unsplash

Senior equality, diversity and inclusion policy advisor at CIPD, Dr Jill Miller, has spoken about the importance of ensuring that workplaces are neuro-inclusive. She said: “This means good people management, getting to know people as individuals and understanding their needs. Organisations should ensure managers have the training to manage people effectively, offer flexible working and provide clear access to reasonable adjustments.”

Employee Rights

In the UK, eligible employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments at work to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantages which their disability may cause. However, employers are only obliged to make reasonable adjustments if they know, or might reasonably be expected to know, about an employee’s condition. As such, it’s important for employees to inform their employer about their neurodiversity (or any other condition) as soon as possible to enable the employer to put reasonable adjustments in place. These might include changing the way the employee works or providing specialist equipment.

Employees can request reasonable adjustments either in person or in writing. In the first instance, it may help to speak informally with a line manager, potentially following up in writing if the request isn’t resolved. Employees should provide their employer with as much information as possible about their condition(s) and the reasonable adjustment(s) required to enable them to make a decision.

If you think you may have received unfair treatment or been discriminated against at work, Redmans Solicitors can help. Get in touch with one of our friendly employment law specialists today for an initial consultation.

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