A man has been awarded almost £20,000 after an employment tribunal found he had been unfairly dismissed from his role despite telling his bosses he had depression.
The tribunal in Inverness previously heard how Donald Macpherson was dismissed by his employer, Loch Ness Coffee Company, in November 2018 after an investigation carried out by the catering company ruled against him following numerous absences from work.
He was suspended from his role as bakery supervisor while a fact-finding investigation was carried out, which ultimately led to his dismissal.
Mr Macpherson sought the claim of disability discrimination on the basis the investigation was wrong and did not take into account his disclosure of his diagnosis of depression.
A written judgement from the tribunal which was heard by judge James Hendry states that the Loch Ness Coffee Company should pay Mr Macpherson £9,698.38 in respect of the dismissal and £10,000 for injury to feelings.
‘Behaviour arises from his depression’
The judgement states: “The facts of the case are clear that the claimant was dismissed primarily for his absences and to a lesser extent a failure to report these and for a failure to use personal days for the purpose that he had sought them.
“The dismissal letter refers to ‘Your excessive level of absence as well as your repeated failure to notify the company adequately in advance of a planned absence’.
“This behaviour we found arises from his depression and in particular the symptom of him lacking motivation and ability to do things. The “something” that pertains here arises in consequence of that disability.
“This was a factor that operated on the minds of the dismissing employer or discriminator in dismissing him.”
Mr Macpherson was first employed by the firm back in March 2013, worked his way up from a cleaning role to a supervisory role in the baking team at the Drumnadrochit establishment.
His health began to deteriorate before he sought medical help in May 2017.
During the tribunal it was said the company had a practice of staff taking unpaid personal days during quiet periods.
In 2018 Mr Macpherson had accrued a ‘large number’ of these days and in excess of 20 sick days.
The company’s position was that there had been a fair disciplinary process, but it was conceded there had been a failure to provide Mr Macpherson with an appeal – even though he had lodged one.
It had not conceded that he had been discriminated against.
‘Managers were told about depression’
During a previous hearing of the tribunal at Highland Rail House in Inverness, Mr Macpherson described his feelings at the time as him being in “a low mood” and that he was “unable to get motivated or sleep well”.
When asked by his solicitor Lucy Neil if his illness had affected his job, Mr Macpherson replied: “Absolutely it had an impact on my job.”
Mr Macpherson said he informed management of his diagnosis, and he was even offered advice from one member who had suffered from similar feelings and recommended a book.
Solicitor Erin Grant, representing theLoch Ness Coffee Company, cross-examined Mr Macpherson establishing sick lines that had been issued to the company cited his absence from work being due to “stress at home” and not depression as he claimed.
She questioned who Mr Macpherson had disclosed his diagnosis to, and by what methods.
He replied that he told three members of management verbally.
In the judgement it states that a fit note from July 2018 cites the reason for his absence as ‘depressed mood’, and says this would ‘put the matter beyond doubt’ that he was suffering from depression.