Unprecedented relief as court rejects claim

A former employee of Sainsbury’s has lost a key aspect of an employment tribunal case that could have set a dangerous precedent for employers facing ‘disability-related’ discrimination claims.

Louise Tarbuck, who was a principal business analyst at the supermarket’s head office, claimed she was unfairly dismissed in February 2004 because of a debilitating illness. Tarbuck suffers from ulcerative colitis, associated arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, which she argued should be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

She claimed Sainsbury’s breached a previous agreement where it set out how it would enable her to return to work. She alleged that on her return to work she was required to operate as a “low-profile” analyst and that her desk had been moved near to network computer equipment.

But the tribunal found Sainsbury’s did not treat Tarbuck less favourably on the grounds of her disability – its failings related to making reasonable adjustments.

The tribunal decided that Tarbuck’s discrimination claim succeeded only in part and upheld a case of unfair dismissal. Her victimisation and whistleblowing claims against the firm both failed.

A statement from Sainsbury’s said: “The vast majority of Ms Tarbuck’s claims have been dismissed by the tribunal. Sainsbury’s has a strong record in employment best practice in all areas of diversity.”

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