Pay­out for dis­abled BT en­gi­neer af­ter boss’s ‘pocket-dial’ tirade

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Jack Hardy in the

A DIS­ABLED BT en­gi­neer won £8,000 in com­pen­sa­tion af­ter a “pocket dial” al­lowed him to hear a man­ager’s of­fen­sive tirade about his con­di­tion.

Paul Tribe, a 54-year-old fi­bre op­tic joiner, was de­scribed as a “bull-------” by Wayne Read, the Open­reach op­er­a­tions man­ager, who was un­aware he had ac­ci­den­tally called his col­league.

An em­ploy­ment tri­bunal was told that Mr Tribe, who suf­fers from mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy, heard Mr Read say­ing an “able-bod­ied” team would per­form his job bet­ter.

A claim of ha­rass­ment was up­held against the com­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant fol­low­ing a hear­ing in Leices­ter over the sum­mer, re­sult­ing in a pay­out of £8,313.

Paul Evans, an em­ploy­ment judge, said the slur about Mr Tribe’s dis­abil­ity served to both “vi­o­late his dig­nity and to cre­ate a de­grad­ing or hu­mil­i­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment for him”. His writ­ten judg­ment con­tin­ued: “The claimant’s per­cep­tion was clearly that this was the case and, given the na­ture of the com­ments, it would have been strange if it had not been.”

An­other claim of ha­rass­ment – when Mr Tribe was told he “was not a com­plete hand­bag” by a sep­a­rate man­ager – was re­jected by the tri­bunal. The 30-year-old em­ployee of BT re­ceived the un­wit­ting call while at­tend­ing a job at a po­lice sta­tion on May 26 2016.

A desk sergeant had in­formed him at 4pm that he was leav­ing the site and no one else would be able to grant him ac­cess to the com­pound.

Hav­ing re­ported this de­vel­op­ment to Mr Read, Mr Tribe’s phone rang again – and this time he heard his supe- rior’s voice talk­ing about him third per­son.

Mr Read apol­o­gised when con­fronted, but warned Mr Tribe to hang up if it hap­pened again, the tri­bunal was told. He sub­se­quently de­nied the call had hap­pened at all.

But the judge “pre­ferred” Mr Tribe’s ev­i­dence, also ac­cept­ing the ac­count of his col­league, who had heard the foul­mouthed rant when the call was placed on speak­er­phone.

The en­gi­neer pre­vi­ously won a dis­abil­ity dis­crim­i­na­tion claim against BT in 2013, al­low­ing him to re­turn to a field role de­spite the lim­i­ta­tions of his mus­cle-weak­en­ing con­di­tion. He worked as part of a two-man team, with a col­league per­form­ing the roles he phys­i­cally could not.

Two fur­ther claims, that Mr Tribe was vic­timised in breach of the Equal­ity Act and that BT breached a duty to make rea­son­able ad­just­ments, were re­jected by the tri­bunal. BT said it would not be com­ment­ing on the claims.

[The com­ments served to] ‘vi­o­late his dig­nity and cre­ate a de­grad­ing or hu­mil­i­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment’

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