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After PTSD incident Tesco worker wins claim for sex discrimination

After being trapped in a room by his female boss a worker from Tesco, who suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), has won his sex discrimination claim.

Mr. King, who is 6’ tall, told the tribunal how his line manager had ‘falsely imprisoned’ him one day at work. After the incident he was constantly ridiculed by the other managers who said that he was frightened by a ‘little woman.’ His line manager Francis is 5’4”.

The employment tribunal heard that Mr. King was often berated by Francis through December 2018 because she considered him to be less flexible regarding his availability to work different shifts.

At the time of their disagreements over the shifts Mr. King was also studying to become an electrician, as well as balancing another job while working at Tesco in Aylesbury, Bucks.

Meetings took place to discuss Mr. King’s absence where he explained that he had needed a change in his medication for PTSD. He admitted that the new medication had side effects and made him ‘angry and bitter.’

In December 2018 Francis was five months pregnant. She took Mr. King into a staff room to talk about his availability for shifts. Mr. King stated that he felt uncomfortable and made a move to open the door.

At this point Francis placed her foot against the door and ‘physically prevented’ Mr. King from leaving the room. A recording on CCTV showed him squeezing himself out of the door and leaving.

Mr. King told the tribunal that he had spoken to Tesco about his PTSD. This condition had been triggered when he worked for the Prison Service. He had been held hostage on one occasion.

After a relapse of his PTSD Mr. King had been signed off work in February 2019. He could not leave the house without crying.

Although Mr. King had provided Tesco with sick notes throughout his absence, he was dismissed for ‘repeatedly failing to show up for work.’ Further, he did not attend a disciplinary meeting. Tesco said that they had never received any of his sick notes.

The tribunal, when querying Francis, were told that at the time that she was managing 18 or 19 people at a time. Due to her pregnancy related ill health she found that she became forgetful, and this had caused her to forget the issues Mr. King had with his PTSD.

In her judgement Judge Judith George stated that Francis did not see how Mr. King could possibly intimidated by her because of the difference in their sizes. Neither did she think he would take her actions seriously.

The statement given by Francis caused the tribunal to think that her actions were partly based on him being a man and not simply because they were of different sexes.

The tribunal agreed that Tesco had not thoroughly investigated Francis’ actions, although they did not find that this amounted to sexual harassment. However, they did rule that Mr. King’s dismissal was because of direct sexual discrimination.

A second hearing will be arranged to discuss Mr. King’s compensation.

Jane Fielding, head of employment at law firm Gowling WLG stated that the case showed the risks involved in making stereotypical decisions based on assumptions that may or may not apply equally to male employees.

This incident suggests a complete lack of understanding about the impact PTSD can have on a person’s life. This understanding is vital when considering the decision-making process in any business.

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