Disabled Teacher and Discrimination Claim
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A teacher with cystic ﬁbrosis has won £180,000 compensation after the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled his employer discriminated against him on the grounds of his disability during his dismissal for a disciplinary oﬀence. Philip Grosset, who was head of English at Joseph Rowntree School in York, was sacked for gross misconduct in 2014 after showing the 18-certiﬁcate horror ﬁlm Halloween to 16-year-old students.
Grosset described his actions as a “poor choice” made at a time of “extreme stress and ill-health”, which did not deserve more than a verbal warning at most. Instead, he was sacked – and the tribunal accepted his argument that the school’s failure to take account of his disability before and during the process amounted to discrimination. Grosset was working long hours at the time, with no allowances made for his disability, the tribunal heard. His previous headteacher made reasonable adjustments such as allowing him to attend medical appointments and oﬀering ﬂexibility over deadlines, but that changed when new headteacher Richard Crane took over.
While Grosset was oﬀ work because of stress, Crane discovered that he had shown Halloween to year 11 pupils as part of their coursework. Although no students or parents complained, Grosset faced a disciplinary and was eventually sacked for gross misconduct.
“I was given the sack for a single, one-oﬀ oﬀence after a 12-year career in local schools,” said Grosset. “As a middle- aged man with a chronic health condition, my entire career and livelihood had been taken away from me.”
What are the implications of this ruling?
This case shows how giving out ‘unreasonable’ sanctions following a disciplinary process can backfire. Think carefully about the sanction given, take account of the employee’s disciplinary and general record, length of service, actions taken in any previous similar case, the explanations given by the employee and – most important of all – whether the intended disciplinary action is reasonable under the circumstances.