A menopausal worker has lost her claims for sex and disability discrimination at a tribunal despite being told she was sharing ‘too much information’.
Ms McMahon worked as a typist at law firm Rothwell & Evans, and was dismissed due to a series of absences.
McMahon had sent an email to a senior lawyer describing how menopause-related hot flushes were “unbearable” and made her feel as though she had flu.
In one email, McMahon said she had been late due to changing her clothes after a hot flush episode, adding that “I don’t want to become unreliable and I’m trying to get a solution… I don’t want to let you down or think bad of me.”
The director replied that this was “a little bit too [much] information…but it does help us to be made aware of these problems”.
The tribunal ruled that although her menopausal symptoms met the definition of disability, her treatment did not amount to discrimination as she had been dismissed due to “unreliability” in a new role and an “alarming” number of absences.
The firm also submitted that she was regularly late and often needed to take extended breaks.
McMahon had been studying for a conveyancing diploma with the support of the firm and had been in discussions about supporting a colleague in this function who was about to reduce his hours before retirement.
However, a misunderstanding over whether she would be this colleague’s PA as well as a conveyancing assistant arose and she submitted her resignation.
Shortly afterwards the misunderstanding was cleared up and she rescinded it, but in the months to follow her absences increased and she felt uncomfortable discussing her menopausal symptoms with senior partners. There were further absences due to an optical issue and caring for her sick children, the tribunal heard.
In May 2019 McMahon received a dismissal letter which stated her “dependability was immediately in question” after she took on the new role.
In judgment, Employment Judge Feeney said: “We find it was not just the absences: it was the frequency of them … and their length…. Essentially in this job reliability was critical and the claimant became unreliable.”
In relation to disability discrimination, it found that while her symptoms met the definition, her employer did “not have the requisite actual or constructive knowledge that the claimant was disabled” to discriminate against her on that basis.
On the claim of sex discrimination, the judge said there was no evidence to suggest that a comparator (male employee) would have been treated differently after a series of absences to look after their child.
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