Disability discrimination appeal unravels as woolly hat man left in cold

A Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) employee, who claimed he suffered disability discrimination after a portable heater was taken away from his work station, has had his case dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

Alwyn Sawyer, who worked at a JobcentrePlus office, said he needed to work in temperatures at or above 27 degrees Celsius, otherwise he would suffer from various chest ailments and breathing difficulties. He wore several layers of garments and woolly hats at work to keep sufficiently warm and was provided with a portable heater at work.

Sawyer, whom, Judge McMullen, presiding, said was “blessed with a law degree and further qualifications,” represented himself at the EAT. He also showed his warm wear and woolly hats as evidence.

Sawyer also presented some medical notes, including one from Dr M Khan of North London, which stated that he suffered from recurring tonsillitis when “exposed to cold climate in the home or workplace. I recommend that necessary heating provision be facilitated in his workplace”.

In his original claim, heard at a preliminary hearing review, Sawyer said his disability was based on his suffering from bronchitis, breathing difficulties and hay fever, the first two of which were “triggered when the place or room is cold”.

He said he did not suffer any of these symptoms when the DWP provided him with a portable heater, but that he became ill when the heater was removed and “thus was disabled”.

The DWP claimed Sawyer’s bronchitis or breathing difficulties were not disabilities within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1996.

The judge ruled that Sawyer’s evidence was insufficient to justify a claim under the DDA and that hay fever is excluded anyway. Sawyer’s appeal was dismissed.

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