British Airways worker wins £2,000 payout after she was sacked for taking time off following surgery to treat her endometriosis
A British Airways worker has been awarded £2,000 compensation for injury to feelings at an employment tribunal after she was sacked following surgery to treat her endometriosis.
Cordelle Scotland, 39, took time off after an operation for the gynaecological condition and was criticised by a boss who suggested she should have instead swapped some of her shifts with a colleague.
Miss Scotland, who worked at Heathrow Airport as a customer services representative, failed her probationary period in February 2019 and was told she had been sacked for absence and being late to work 13 times.
She then sued BA and a tribunal ruled Miss Scotland’s boss Nicola Drinkwater had treated her ‘unfavourably’ by criticising her for not swapping shifts after the operation.
The tribunal also stated that Miss Scotland would have been sacked anyway due to her lateness but awarded her compensation for injury to feelings. She accepted BA’s offer of £2,000.
Fleet of Boeings 747 of British Airways standing on the apron of London Heathrow airport
The hearing was told Miss Scotland had worked for BA for eight months and already had her probation extended because of absences and lateness, when she emailed them about her upcoming operation in November 2018.
In her email to BA, Miss Scotland stated: ‘I am due for hospital admission on December 11 for an abdominal myomectomy due to my fibroids and endometriosis reaching the stage of disability which in turn affects my work and life in general greatly.
‘To put it into perspective, my uterus is the same size as a five and a half month pregnancy due to the tumours. The recovery period is about 4 weeks however I have concerns as to how this may affect my probation.
‘I need to have this surgery on this date as I have been having treatment for the last three months to help shrink the fibroids before surgery and it is not recommended for me to continue the treatment any longer than three months as it has induced me into menopause which can trigger osteoporosis. My third and last treatment will be on November 14.’
As a result she was signed off by her GP for two weeks from December 15.
When her probationary period ended in February 2019, BA informed Miss Scotland her employment would be terminated as ‘your attendance level is unacceptable’ and ‘you have been late to work on 13 separate occasions between March 2018 and February 2019’.
In an email, Heathrow Services Manager Nicola Drinkwater added: ‘I have taken into account that you had a planned medical procedure on December 11, 2018, which you have been recovering from and signed off work by your GP between December 15, 2018 – February 2, 2019.
‘However the seasonal roster you were working offers vast amounts of flexibility to swap shifts and work on available rest days prior or post your procedure.’
She also cited ‘a further three occasions of lateness’ which came after a review meeting in October 2018 extending Miss Scotland’s probationary period ‘due to concerns regarding your attendance and performance’.
Following her sacking, Miss Scotland’s emailed CEO Alex Cruz and Tom Stevens, BA’s Head of Worldwide Airports, and stated she had ‘made all attempts to ensure my surgery would not interfere with my employment’.
When her probationary period ended in February 2019, BA informed Miss Scotland her employment would be terminated as ‘your attendance level is unacceptable’ and ‘you have been late to work on 13 separate occasions between March 2018 and February 2019’
ENDOMETRIOSIS: WHAT PROBLEMS DOES IT CAUSE?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis can affect women of any age.
It’s a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on life, but there are treatments that can help.
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.
The main symptoms are:
- pain in your lower tummy or back – usually worse during period
- period pain that prevents normal activities
- pain during or after sex
- pain when going to the toilet during period
- feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in urine during period
- difficulty getting pregnant
She added: ‘For Nikki to then make the statement that I should have sorted my recovery time off with shift swaps and leave is completely unfair and discriminatory.
‘My surgery was gynaecological for endometriosis (a condition that only affects women) and uterine fibroids (a condition that prevalently affects Black women).
‘Why should I be expected to have covered recovery time from major surgery with leave and shift swap.’
Ms Drinkwater told the tribunal the ‘main issue’ for Miss Scotland’s sacking was ‘the high number of times she was late’ and was not because of her sickness absence ‘nor the need to be on restricted duties following her return to work’.
Miss Scotland’s claims for wrongful dismissal, direct discrimination because of race and/or sex and/or disability were dismissed by the tribunal which also ruled BA had not failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability.
However, it did rule it had treated her unfavourably under the Equality Act by considering her absence for the operation when terminating her contract and in criticising her for not swapping shifts.
In his ruling, Employment Judge Oliver Hyams stated: ‘Ms Drinkwater plainly did take into account in making her decision the fact that [Miss Scotland] had had some absences from work on account of sickness which was the result of having endometriosis, which [BA] accepted was a disability.
‘Ms Drinkwater did that by criticising [Miss Scotland] for not swapping shifts with the result that she did not, as far as Ms Drinkwater was concerned, exhibit what Ms Drinkwater would have regarded as a commendable spirit.
‘That treatment of [Miss Scotland], ie that criticism, was made only as a result of her being unable to work because of the surgery which had been required to mitigate the effects of her disability.’