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Woman Claims Employer Discrimination due to a Disability

February 21, 2017

A woman has told an employment tribunal in Southampton that employer discrimination due to a disability left her feeling “hurt and confused”.

Kay Sunny (52) – a clerk for the cosmetics company Estee Lauder – told the employment tribunal how, in May 2006, she suffered an epileptic fit in front of the company´s HR Manager and was rushed to Southampton General Hospital where she was diagnosed with epilepsy and a generic blood disorder that resulted in her also suffering a stroke.

While she was off work, Kay was paid a proportion of her salary under the company´s permanent health insurance scheme. The payments were supposed to continue until she was fit to return to work or until her retirement, but in August 2013 the payments stopped and Kay received a letter from her employer saying that she was no longer incapacitated and was fit to return to work.

Kay complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service and, in 2015, a decision was granted in her favour. Her health insurance payments resumed, but she was still upset by the tone of her employer´s unsympathetic letter – having not previously heard from the company for a number of years. Kay sought legal advice and made a claim for employer discrimination due to a disability.

At the hearing, a representative of Estee Lauder argued that the letter did not constitute employer discrimination due to a disability, but was a reasonable request on behalf of the insurance company to ensure the severity of the Kay´s medical condition. Kay questioned why, in seven years, the company´s HR Manager had not picked up the phone to see how she was or advise her that the insurance company was making enquiries.

Kay explained to the tribunal board that her condition had left her feeling low and depressed, and afraid to go out. “I hated the embarrassment of having a seizure in front of people I knew, being unable to remember things and getting lost,” she said. “To be blunt, I felt stupid”. The decision in Kay´s claim for employer discrimination due to a disability is expected in several months.