Employment Tribunal awards £12,000 to worker sacked over rare eye condition

Posted on Tuesday September 4, 2018

In recent days, an Employment Tribunal has ordered craft beer company Brewdog to pay a sum of £12,000 to a former employee who was sacked after doctors told him he was about to lose his eyesight.

Jamie Ross, who suffers from a rare condition known as Stargardt disease, which causes vision to deteriorate slowly over time, joined Brewdog in July 2016, taking on a position in the popular brewery chain’s packaging team.

From the very outset, he made sure that his employer was aware of his condition.

Later, in January 2017, Mr Ross began experiencing significant sight problems, and again informed company bosses of his situation.

In between visits to doctors and medical professionals, he told his manager that he was undergoing a series of tests and would likely be declared ‘legally blind’ in the near future.

Initially, Brewdog sought advice from sight loss charity RNIB and it appeared as if the company was investigating whether any adjustments could be made in the workplace to support Mr Ross in his role.

Later, however, managers attempted to move him to a different department altogether, after the company’s health and safety manager rated Mr Ross as a ‘high-risk member of staff’.

When he refused to comply, he was dismissed.

Taking his case to an Employment Tribunal, Mr Ross explained that managers intended to move him into a computing role, which he felt would be much more difficult than packaging for someone living with limited eyesight.

“The way they dealt with my condition was really poor for a company of their size. The management just didn’t seem to have a clue how to deal with it, they just wanted to end it,” he said.

Examining the evidence, the Tribunal found that Brewdog bosses involved in Mr Ross’ dismissal had failed to make reasonable adjustments for his disability under the Equality Act.

Worse still, Employment Judge Nick Hosie noted that the company had exhibited a worrying “lack of awareness” of its legal obligations to “consider reasonable adjustments for an employee they recognised as disabled.”

In response to the ruling, a Brewdog spokesperson said: “This was a really difficult situation for every member of our team involved in it.

“We ended up in a position where we had to balance James’ wishes with the best interests of the team around him, and while we regret that an agreement couldn’t be reached, we have a moral responsibility to prioritise the safety of our team.”