Employee with stutter takes Asda to tribunal for sacking

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Asda logoRui Vieira/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Adnan Malik, a 30-year old former Asda employee appeared at an employment tribunal in Reading yesterday, claiming he had been sacked for behaviour which was related to his stutter, and had therefore been discriminated against for a disability.

So where does the law stand on this?

The case

There was no final decision in this instance, and the judge decided that the case should go to a full tribunal hearing in September, where it will be ruled on separately.


The case hinges around an incident in July last year. Malik, of Prospect Street, Reading, raised his voice and was gesticulating at a colleague in front of a customer at the checkouts. The customer then complained about his behaviour. Asda investigated the incident and dismissed him in September. The store said he had been "noisy and aggressive" in front of a customer.

Malik, however, argues that he was simply struggling to get his words out - having suffered from a stutter since birth. He told the tribunal: "I have a stutter which causes me to raise my voice unusually." He appealed the decision to sack him, and provided a letter from his GP confirming he had the condition.

Disability

He took the case to tribunal, claiming disability discrimination and unfair dismissal. Asda was attempting to have the claim for disability discrimination struck from the case, but the judge refused, and referred the case to another hearing.

Catherine Wilson, an employment partner at Thomas Eggar, says that the result will hinge on the facts in the case, but it was ultimately in the lap of the tribunal judge.

She added: "Certain types of disability, including some mental disability and possibly a stutter can cause behaviour to appear erratic. Employers need to be aware that if the behaviour is caused by the disability they may have to be more lenient."

However, she said: "It doesn't mean those suffering from a disability have a licence to do as they want. If you have a mental disability and it causes you to attack a customer it doesn't mean the employer should turn a blind eye. It simply means the employer has to make an adjustment - or an allowance - for the disability." This, in practice, means being more cautious when considering disciplining an employee with a disability.

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