Recently, an Employment Tribunal was held for a flight attendant who was discriminated against because of her disability following a brain tumour. The Equality Act 2010 (EA) is the key piece of legislation which relates to any accusations of discrimination, which can be generated by a number of sources, such as an employer’s actions or the actions of an employee’s agents or colleagues. In this case, it was the actions of the employer against the employee, who refused to make any reasonable adjustment for the sick flight attendant.
Who are Ryanair?
Ryanair is a budget airline, founded in Ireland, 216 destinations in 37 countries – including Morocco and the Canary Islands. Its primary bases are in Dublin and London Stansted, operating more than 400 Boeing 737-800 aircraft across Europe and beyond. In 2017, the organisation became the first European airline to have carried over 1 billion customers.
Since 2004, Margita Dworak worked for Ryanair, initially as a contract worker, before becoming a directly employed member of cabin crew in 2006 – eventually being promoted to the senior position of Customer Services Supervisor in 2013.
However, in 2015, Dworak’s health started to deteriorate, where she was suffering from severe headaches, struggled to talk and make coherent thoughts. After two years, Dworak decided to seek medical advice in her native country of Poland, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Based on this diagnosis, Dworak went on sick leave but it took over 8 weeks for Ryanair’s human resources department to carry out a ‘welfare’ check.
As the tumour was found to be non-cancerous, Dworak was taken off the priority list for surgery and spent a further four months on sick leave, whilst waiting for the surgery. However, she was given the all-clear to go back to work – only on ground duties, not her previous role.
When Dworak got in contact with Ryanair she requested round-based work, but was informed that there were no ground-based positions available. If one did become available, she would have to follow the same recruitment process like everyone else – preventing her from being able to work for the airline.
After a number of requests for work, communication with various managers – who came across very intemperate towards Dworak, Margita lodged a grievance which was not acknowledged. Around a month later, she submitted a second grievance stating Ryanair had breached the Equality Act by failing to carry out a risk assessment, make reasonable adjustments or consider other roles for her within the business. Dworak eventually found a role in a different business and resigned from Ryanair.
The Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Dworak, finding that she was discriminated against and constructively dismissed. Based on this decision, a Ryanair spokesperson said: “We have instructed our lawyers to appeal this decision.”
What can employers learn from this case?
If an employee, or worker, suffers from unfavourable treatment due to them having a “protected characteristic” – discrimination can be generated. In this case, the protected characteristic was a disability, as it had severe long-term adverse effects on Dworak’s ability to perform everyday activities within her current role.
Employers should make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled employees and the dangers associated with attempting to avoid this, which this discrimination case is the perfect example of. To prove that discriminatory behaviour has occurred, an employer must present this treatment to be unfair and against the greater good of the business, and based on the evidence – the Employment Tribunal favoured Dworak’s case.
If you would like some advice on a discrimination case, please feel free to visit the Nationwide Employment Lawyers website. You are more than welcome to telephone us on 020 8263 6080 or complete the contact form on our website.