Worker’s claim of discrimination for flatulence blown off by tribunal

U.K. woman said she was fired for complaining about co-workers' teasing about her bowel problem
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A British employment tribunal has dismissed a woman’s claims she was fired because of flatulence.

The woman, from Bradford, U.K., worked at Leeds Metropolitan University. She suffered from irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) which often caused gas problems at work.

The woman said she was the butt of jokes and comments because of her condition, including exaggerated sniffing noises and one comments that “she opens the windows because she is stinking the place out.”

She complained she was being harassed but shortly afterwards the university started disciplinary proceedings against her because of absenteeism and the quality of her work. The university said she was sick about four days each month but didn’t provide any notes from a doctor. She was eventually fired for being “difficult to manage” and the university said it was “less confident in her ability.”

The woman filed a complaint with the employment tribunal, saying she was discriminated because of her disability and race and she was constructively dismissed.

The tribunal saw a psychiatric report stating she was paranoid, which made her likely to view certain managerial decisions as having “malicious intent” rather than based on reasonable concerns.

The tribunal dismissed the discrimination and constructive dismissal complaints, finding she was under stress from her IBS and other outside factors and her absenteeism was a legitimate concern for her employer.

“She was unhappy in an open-plan office and possibly became unduly concerned as to whether, as a result of IBS, she was suffering from flatulence,” the tribunal said.

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