Home » Aspergers/HFA » Disability Discrimination and possible Harrassment

Disability Discrimination and possible Harrassment

My son is twenty and preparing to start his degree studies in September. He has diagnoses of Asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia, but has worked hard to develop coping mechanisms, and neither presents an obstacle most of the time. He is a well-motivated young man with a strong work ethic.

About a month ago, a local hotel invited him to be interviewed for a part-time waitering post he had applied for. He was offered the job and started work last weekend. He was told that during his first 4 weeks of employment, either side could terminate the contract without notice and after that a period of notice would be required. On his first day, he received a brief induction and was given a number of forms to complete, including a medical questionnaire. He completed the form accurately, declaring his disabilities, which he has never made any secret of.

Today, having completed 4 shifts and received compliments from customers, he returned home and told us that he was no longer required as his medical form had been reviewed and it was felt the post was not appropriate to his disability. Yes, you read that correctly, he was being sacked for his disability.  He enquired what he was doing wrong and was not given an explanation, but something was said about possible problems with customer interaction (remember he had been complimented a few hours earlier) and speed. As far as my son is aware, he had done everything he had been required to do and had not been given any instructions to suggest he was doing anything wrong or to improve his work. As he says, he could understand if he was not doing the job, but to be dismissed for a disability is just not on!

To rub salt in the wound, it was unclear they had dismissed him as he was told the hotel would consider re-employing him if they had a suitable post, but they would pay him for his other shifts this weekend as a goodwill gesture! Was this to cover their backs I wonder.

As my son was waiting at reception, the manager walked up to my son, gave him a pen, and said to him, ‘Now shake my hand, it’s the normal thing to do.” My son felt offended by his choice of words, that they were patronising and that it was inappropriate to be told that, and demonstrated a complete lack of awareness of his condition.

He is seeking advice on what action might be possible as it would seem the only reason for his dismissal is his disability.

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8 Comments

  1. Jo VanEvery says:

    Well, they have TOLD him it was about his medical form. They gave a reason, even though the terms said they didn’t, so that is important. The point is that they shouldn’t be making that determination without an actual evaluation of what he can do, consultation with some kind of expert, and consultation with him. The evidence from his first few shifts is also useful.

    Have him document everything. As much as he can remember about interactions with clients and staff. Everything. Write it down now while it is fresh. This could take a while.

    Can you or he talk to someone at Citizens Advice about this? They might be able to help, or at least point you in the right direction.

  2. Emma says:

    It seems to me that this employer has messed up at every step here. How is it legally possible to offer a post to someone and THEN “review” his/her medical form? How can the phrase “not appropriate for your disability”, whether written or verbal, be acceptable in any context – let alone the context of being let go? Jo’s advice is excellent – document everything, in as much detail as possible.

    I’m trying to stay sounding objective, but I’m utterly horrified and angered by this:
    “the manager walked up to my son, gave him a pen, and said to him, ‘Now shake my hand, it’s the normal thing to do.’”
    It’s making me feel queasy at second hand, so I cannot imagine what it must have been like for your son to hear.

  3. Debbie Lock says:

    This is truly appalling. As a mother of a young man with Dyspraxia who has been working in the hospitality and catering industry for 4 years now, I find this sort of discriminatory treatment totally unacceptable and illegal. I suspect that the medical form is simply an excuse – I agree with the above person.

    1. While everything is fresh in your sons memory write down or record exactly what happened
    2. Gather the evidence..
    3. Ask for some written explanation as to why the contract was terminated I.e. on what basis, ask for specifics, what customer interaction I.e. prove it, what support did they offer your son ( training to help him develop the areas of weakness he may have) — usually you would have to provide some training if there are problems before termination…but I am not sure how this works on such a short time
    4. Straight to CAB or an employment specialist

    Tell your son it’s not his problem, it’s the company have clearly handled this badly.

  4. lizit says:

    Thanks for the comments and support. It is helpful for my son to see what people are saying and to be reassured that he is doing the right things.

    We have written down what happened, and he has spoken to Equality and Human Rights Commission and will ring ACAS on Monday.

    I am very angry, but also very impressed with how maturely my son is handling this and his willingness to do all the right things.

  5. Spencer Ross says:

    I’m baffled by how the UK does something worse than in the US. Although in the US, they could make employment “at will”, termination for that reason in the US would be something they wouldn’t be able to get away with. No company in the US would have done what that place did, particularly in being so overt about it, not the least because of a fear of litigation (which would be readily won), not the most because of human decency.

    Wish I could give advise, but clearly US law differs from UK law on this, so there’s not much this American could say other than wish you both the best of luck on pursuing recourse for this cowardly act.

  6. By admitting it was solely because of his disability they have broken the law. get ACAS involved asap as they will be able to give advice. However, they have no case on the grounds that it was descriminatory dissmial.

    I hope your son fights them as its dispicable that companys can behave like this.

  7. Ailsa says:

    I agree with Debbie, ensure your son knows the problem resides with the hotel and not with him.

  8. Laura says:

    It makes me want to throw up that the manager said ‘Now shake my hand, it’s the normal thing to do’ after having fired him. It was inappropriate, demonstrated that the manager thought he was entitled to treat your son differently to how he would treat someone else, and was also extremely condescending. I have dyspraxia and have to say that it has made me really angry when people have waffled on about ‘concerns’ they have about my ‘interactions’- I’ve had these kinds of remarks from ignorant tutors on higher education courses that were to do with working in education. I think that, what they really wanted to say was that they didn’t want someone like me on the course because people were uncomfortable with someone who seems different, particularly because dyspraxia has an impact on the way I speak. I don’t have a problem with knowing what to say, other people just seem to have a problem with how my voice sounds and then decide that they can’t regard someone who comes across in the way I do as being professional or competent. I hope you can take action against the hotel- it seems as if they are intolerant and prejudiced towards people who have conditions such as asperger syndrome, and they should not be able to get away with it. Perhaps you could even go to the local paper with this- there’s nothing like a bit of bad publicity to drive business away.

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