A man with a learning disability has settled a case alleging disability harassment against retailer B&M for £5,000 without admission of liability with support from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).
During his 18 months at B&M in a stock-filling role, Harvey Spence said he was subjected to disability harassment by some colleagues, which included being excluded from conversations and subjected to derogatory remarks.
He eventually left the job because the experience was making him “feel very sick” and he was “so worried about how they would treat me if I went back in”.
As part of the settlement, B&M confirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment.
The company undertook to liaise with the ECNI to review its equal opportunities, disability policies, practices and procedures as applicable within Northern Ireland to ensure that they are effective and conform with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended).
The company also agreed to consider reasonable adjustments as suggested by the Equality Commission within an agreed timescale.
Dr Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission, said: “It is so disappointing that Harvey, who was keen to work, enjoyed his job and the sense of identity and independence it offered him, felt he had no choice but to leave his job.
“The sort of behaviour that Harvey describes really has no place in any workplace. Harvey was entitled to be treated with dignity and respect at work just like everyone else.
“The employment rate for disabled people in Northern Ireland is 37.3%, the lowest of all the UK regions, and this needs to improve. Harvey’s experience at work highlights that much remains to be done to challenge barriers to employment for many disabled people and to ensure they can secure and retain paid employment.”
She added: “Employers have a responsibility to provide and promote a good and harmonious working environment. Harvey did not experience that. He felt he had no option but to go off on sick leave and then it appears that no one contacted him to check if he was OK or to offer support.
“This is exactly why employers must have procedures and policies in place to allow them to deal promptly and seriously with complaints of discrimination or harassment and ensure that their staff know how to access these and that their managers are appropriately trained to use them.”