discrimination in the workplace
January 27, 2020

Disabled trader ‘discriminated against’ after firm removed his responsibilities without consultation

Adam Glover Bailie, who was the Head of Equities and Fixed income for City firm ADM Investor Services (ADMIS), had been with the firm since 1996 and in January 2016, was promoted to the position of Execution Trading Manager. The employment tribunal heard that Mr Bailie began experiencing work related stress due to the increased responsibilities and pressure in his new role and during a number of occasions in 2017, raised concerns with ADMIS’s Head of HR about the lack of resources available which was putting ever increasing pressure on him.

In 2018, Mr Bailie was diagnosed with clinical depression and after a meeting with ADMIS’ Head of HR on 4th May, was signed off sick for 2 weeks. Following a further appointment with his GP, Mr Bailie informed ADMIS about his worsening condition and was signed off with temporary medical leave until June that year.

A London employment tribunal ruled that the investment trader was discriminated against after the firm he was employed by restructured his department without consultation and re assigned some of his responsibilities. The employment tribunal ruled that the restructure was designed to permanently remove management responsibilities from Mr Bailie, amounting to ADMIS treating Mr Bailie differently, and less favourably than a colleague without his disability.

On 12th June, Mr Bailie returned to work on reduced hours. During a meeting with the Managing Director of ADMIS, Mr Somerville-Cotton, he was told that it was their desire for him to remain with the business.

The employment tribunal found that Mr Somerville-Cotton’s reassurance that he was still wanted at the firm meant that Mr Bailie would not be expected to take on “a difficult workload” until he had recovered.

On 6th July, Mr Bailie and Mr Somerville-Cotton had a meeting to discuss how to restructure Mr Bailie’s department to support him, however on the 8th July Mr Bailie left work due to a “bit of a meltdown”, as detailed in his email to ADMIS’ Head of HR the day after. As of November 2019, Mr Bailie has not returned to work.

On 3rd August 2018, Mr Somerville-Cotton announced a restructure via email for Mr Bailie’s department where Julia Williams would take on sole responsibilities for the team whilst Mr Bailie would continue in a leadership role. This email was forwarded to Mr Bailie on 5th August. Mr Bailie told the employment tribunal that he “felt undermined, humiliated and considerably distressed” after reading the email.

On 6th August, ADMIS’ Head of HR received an email from Mr Bailie stating he was “exceedingly distressed by the actions and decisions” that had been made whilst he was signed off from work. After meeting with both his GP and his psychiatrist, Mr Bailie was signed off work on 17th of August for a period of 3 months with depression.

ADMIS dismissed Mr Bailie’s formal grievance and suggested that workplace mediation may be the best way to resolve the issues. ADMIS also dismissed the other areas of Mr Bailie’s grievance including not providing reasonable adjustments and the allegations of discrimination relating to his departments restructure. In their closing comments to Mr Bailie, ADMIS’ HR department stated that “if anything, the departments restructure appears to have been a genuine attempt to develop the department and include Mr Bailie as a leader”.

The outcome of the grievance was rejected by Mr Bailie’s solicitor who then filed employment tribunal claims of discrimination, harassment and failing to make reasonable adjustments.

Judge Timothy Clive Adkin, Chair of the London Employment Tribunal hearing the case stated during his judgment remarks that: “We infer from the circumstances that by 3 August the fact that the absence was down to a mental health disability rather than merely an absence for some other sort of cause materially influenced the discussion to make Julia Williams co-head.

“This was less favourable treatment than an individual without a disability might expect.”

 

Caroline Wood, Director of HR Heroes said: “this is a classic case of where the employer failed to consider the employee’s disability, whereby they changed his role without consultation taking away some of his responsibilities.”

“These changes were made whilst the employee was absent from work due to illness and as a result the employee felt that he had not been included, and in this case, demonstrated that he received less favourable treatment as a result of his condition.”

“These types of mistakes on the part of the employer can be extremely costly, not only in monetary terms, but also in time – the effort required to prepare for a disability discrimination case is great and this is in addition to the legal fees that would be due in order to defend a case such as this, which would run into many thousands of pounds.”

“The moral of this case is to always think about the potential risks of changing an employee’s terms and conditions of employment before you consider implementing them, whether or not the employee has a disability – trying to enforce a change without consultation or the employee’s approval could prove to be very costly.”

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