Health and safety worker, 41, who ‘spiralled into despair’ when he was unfairly dismissed wins £50,000 after he warned bosses he was suicidal then tried to kill himself when they fired him
A health and safety worker who ‘spiralled into despair’ after he was unfairly dismissed has won £50,000 after attempting suicide when he was fired.
Dane Rowe, 41, who worked for British food producers David Wood Baking, had been off work for three months with severe depression and anxiety.
He suffered mental health issues for 20 years, told bosses of his ‘regular suicide contemplation’ and complied with their requests for regular sick notes.
But after he missed ‘informal wellness meetings’ because he was so mentally unwell he couldn’t leave the house, he was unfairly sacked.
Dane Rowe, 41, who worked for British food producers David Wood Baking (pictured, the Newport site where Mr Rowe worked), had been off work for three months with severe depression and anxiety
Mr Rowe has now been awarded £47,595 compensation after suing them for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
He had worked for the firm for two years when his mental health worsened in March 2020 as the pandemic hit.
Mr Rowe missed a day’s work and ‘fabricated a bizarre explanation’ which ‘snowballed’ and ended with him facing a disciplinary hearing before he finally admitted he lied and was given a final written warning.
He was then off across April, May and June in 2020 with severe depression and said he would be unable to attend a ‘wellness’ meeting at work.
In messages across those months, he told managers: ‘I’m really struggling mentally at the moment and spent most days isolated and alone in my flat as have been experiencing massive panic attacks when I try to go out.
‘To be honest, I’m not well and I’m not coping. I’m struggling to find a reason to get out of bed each day and suicide is a regular contemplation.
‘I’m in regular contact with my GP but all they can do is keep increasing my dosage [of medication] which I’m not even sure is doing any good anyways. I just can’t get my head straight but I’m really trying.’
He said his ‘anxiety is through the roof’ and didn’t attend three of the meetings but continued to provide sick notes.
He suffered mental health issues for 20 years, told bosses of his ‘regular suicide contemplation’ and complied with their requests for regular sick notes
He told bosses: ‘Without sounding like a moan, the thought of going anywhere (apart from the shop just up the road, preferably after 10.30pm so it’s dark) is still a little daunting.
‘My intention was to come in today for meeting but I can’t leave the flat.
‘I know it sounds like a completely feeble excuse but I’ve worked myself up into a state and now I’m frantic.
‘I don’t know why as I’ve been OK this morning but the last hour I’ve been going out of my mind. I’ve booked and cancelled three taxis now and feel like I just need to go back into bed and hide.
‘I’m truly sorry to mess you all around I wish I could leave as planned.’
On July 1 he was dismissed without a disciplinary hearing for ‘continuous absence’, perceived sick note failings, his ‘inability to fulfil his contractual obligations’, and his failure to attend wellness meetings.
He appealed and in early August received a letter informing it failed. As soon as a day later, Mr Rowe was hospitalised after a suicide attempt.
Chair of the Cardiff Employment Tribunal, Employment Judge Stephen Jenkins, said: ‘We noted Mr Rowe attempted suicide in early August, a matter of days, possibly even only one day, after the receipt of the appeal outcome letter.
‘It therefore appeared to us that the dismissal clearly had had an impact on him, and had exacerbated, potentially significantly, his health and ability to work.
‘We noted and accepted Mr Rowe’s evidence that, following his dismissal, he had felt in desperation, leading to thoughts of suicide, and that, when he knew that he was not going to go back to work having read the appeal letter, he ‘spiralled into despair’.’
Judge Jenkins ruled he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated on grounds of disability as David Wood Foods failed to make suitable adjustments.
Judge Jenkins said: ‘No investigation was undertaken in relation to the question of whether Mr Rowe had committed an act of misconduct.
‘Had one been undertaken it would have been made clear he was suffering from ill health.’