Northern Ireland: obese worker wins discrimination case at employment tribunal
A Northern Irish employment tribunal has found in favour of an obese man who claimed he was harassed because of his disability.
A former employee of Randox Laboratories, a health care diagnostics firm, argued he had been discriminated against as a result of being fat.
The claimant argued he was harassed by colleagues for over four years, with one staff member saying he was “so fat he could hardly walk”.
The ruling comes in the wake of the European Court of Justice’s judgement from last year that obesity could be classed as a disability under certain circumstances.
While obesity is not itself a disability, judges said that if, as a consequence of being obese, a person suffers long term impairment they are protected by disability laws.
The tribunal heard the man had gout, sleep apnoea and had crutches to help him walk.
He said the comments about his weight caused him considerable distress and meant he had to go on sick leave. He eventually left the company.
A member of staff was dismissed following an internal investigation at the County Antrim firm.
The tribunal provided that the claimant was subjected to “sustained harassment and bullying”.
The union Unite said workers who suffer abuse as a result of being obese now have “added protection” for pursuing employment cases.
In a statement, Randox Laboratories said: “This tribunal was the result of a dispute between two former staff members.
“As soon as the relevant departments were made aware of the issue, it was dealt with.
“This included a rigorous internal investigation, concluding in the immediate dismissal of the antagonist.
“Randox made every effort to secure the return to work of the claimant and to support him.
“We are aware of the new strand of discrimination that this case law has introduced and Randox continues to be an employer committed to ensuring zero tolerance on any form of discrimination.”