Northern Ireland

O2 settles £160,000 disability discrimination case with long-serving sales advisor

Occupational Health recommendations to enable return work were not fully implemented

Pacemaker Press. 23-04 2024: Eamon Bowen who won his disability discrimination case with O2. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.
Eamon Bowen who won his disability discrimination case with O2

A telecommunications company has apologised to one of its long-serving sales advisors and paid £160,000 as settlement in his disability discrimination case.

Telefonica, which trades as O2, acknowledged and apologised to Eamon Bowen for the “significant upset, distress and injury to feelings” he experienced while employed in an O2 store.

Mr Bowen was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis, a degenerative disc disease, which caused him chronic pain, exhaustion, sleep, and mobility issues, in 2014.

Due to his health condition, he had to take periods of sick leave. These were followed by referrals to occupational health, who made various recommendations to help him back to work.

According to the Equality Commission, which supported Mr Bowen in his case, he was keen to work, managed his condition and worked from home during the pandemic.

Mr Bowen returned to work in-store following lockdown in June 2020. However, he found this difficult as he spent most of his working day on his feet.

He took more sick leave which led to further referrals to occupational health, who again made recommendations to help him work, including a phased return to work, reduced working hours and use of a support chair on the shop floor.

Mr Bowen said these recommendations were not implemented appropriately.

He made repeated efforts to discuss the recommendations of occupational health with his employer.

In the end he felt he had no option but to submit his resignation and left his job in November 2021.

Eamon Bowen said: “I enjoyed my job, I wanted to work. Occupational health made recommendations time and time again to help me to return to and remain in work, but these were not fully implemented.

“In the end, without these supports and adjustments it became impossible for me to continue working.

“I believe their failure to fully implement Occupational Health’s recommendations and to talk to me about my needs as a disabled person cost me my job.”

Chief Commissioner Geraldine McGahey, said: “This case was settled for a significant amount of money and the company has lost an experienced employee.

“It is essential that employers carefully consider all recommendations made by occupational health and communicate with the person with a disability to ensure they understand their needs.

“It’s also important that all staff, particularly line managers, know that the law says reasonable adjustments have to be considered,” said Ms McGahey.

As part of Mr Bowen’s settlement, Telefonica affirmed its commitment to the principles of equality in employment and to ensuring that they comply with equality law.

It has also agreed to work with the commission to review the policies, practices and procedures. The case was settled with no admission of liability.

O2 said it had a range of measures in place to support employees who have a disability or specific needs, “such as making layout changes for wheelchair users, hiring sign language interpreters for employees with hearing difficulties, and providing specialist equipment where appropriate”.

“We have apologised to Mr Bowen for any distressed caused in this case, and we are pleased to have mutually reached a settlement,” a spokesperson added.