British Airways harassed ex-serviceman worker with PTSD, employment tribunal finds

Employment tribunal criticises airline’s ‘lack of empathy’

Zaina Alibhai
Thursday 09 September 2021 01:30
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British Airways harassed a former RAF serviceman with PTSD who it disciplined for missing work as he tried to save his daughter’s life, an employment tribunal has found.

Steve Jones texted his manager at the airline to say he was on his way to the hospital with his daughter, having performed CPR on her.

Upon his return to work he was told he was being investigated for potential gross misconduct.

An employment tribunal ruled BA was guilty of harassing Mr Jones, criticising it for showing a “lack of empathy” towards him.

He will be awarded compensation after winning his claim for disability discrimination and harassement against the airline.

The court called into question BA’s behaviour and bad handling of the situation, particularly as it has signed up to the Military Covenant which requires them to give special consideration to those ‘who had given the most.

Judge Sam Moore said: “The tribunal was struck by a lack of empathy for the very difficult and upsetting situation Mr Jones was in during that period of almost losing both his father and daughter.

“It did not get a proper handle on the situation and it was handled badly.”

The RAF veteran of 18 years began working as an aircraft mechanic at British Airways Maintenance in Cardiff in 2018.

In August that year he was formally diagnosed with PTSD, with symptoms including short-term memory loss, outbursts of anger, and confusion.

After his diagnosis, he took two months off sick from work, and upon his return received a verbal warning by BA.

The following March, Mr Jones was hit by a car and took time off work to attend a hospital appointment, but had forgotten to inform his bosses due to memory loss.

He was asked to attend a disciplinary hearing within less than 24 hours and was given another warning, leading him to become “extremely distressed”.

In August 2019, Mr Jones was absent from work as his father suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised.

Shortly after that, his daughter almost died from a condition that had killed his wife.

He messaged his manager - referred to as Witness A - and told them his PTSD was “going into overdrive” - yet on his first day back to work was given a letter asking him to attend a disciplinary hearing.

He did not attend the meeting because of this, and was asked to attend another or face being sacked.

The tribunal heard Mr Jones suffered multiple PTSD triggers whilst working under Witness A over his duration of employment.

When he was on authorised leave, the manager wrongly assumed he was absent and called him asking: “why are you not working today?”.

During an appraisal, Mr Jones was given a letter by team leaders which said due to his PTSD he had “two differing personalities” and a “profound negative impact on morale”.

He was also left feeling “upset and humiliated” when a colleague wrote ‘PTSD’ next to his name on a job card.

Judge Moore said the comments made had a “significant and debilitating” impact on Mr Jones, and were unnecessary.

He added: “We find that the comments were insensitive and shower poor awareness and lack of training on how to address shortcomings in an employee’s performance due to a disability.”

BA accepted the warnings issued to Mr Jones were “unfavourable treatment” due to his PTSD, but they argued it was trying to achieve “legitimate aims” in managing his absence.

It said it was disappointed with the tribunal’s ruling believing it had acted fairly.

A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the decision and believe that we have acted fairly and properly throughout.

“We are currently considering whether we appeal the decision.”

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