Asda’s ‘disability discrimination’ shouldn’t be an remoted drawback

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ASDA is still in the line of fire for firing a disabled worker. So far, the group giant has not given in. But the situation is a growing problem for the chronically ill and employed.

ASDA: in the line of fire

As Essex Live first reported, ASDA fired Mark Misell from his Shoeburyness business. It was alleged that this was because he was smoking in a place he shouldn’t have been. Misell had worked for ASDA for 30 years. He lives with learning difficulties. These mean that he can neither read nor write. But even after decades of service, ASDA decided to fire him for what appeared to be his first offense.

ASDA ruled that Misell’s actions were gross misconduct. Thereupon it fired him without notice. The Mirror reported that ASDA:

Caught [Misell] smoke a cigarette in a trolley bay while working on May 25th this year.

but [Misell] – who cannot read or write – claims he did not understand the store’s guidelines on smoking in the parking lot because of his learning difficulties.

Because of the decision of the ASDA, he could now become homeless. So the GMB Union got involved.

Join the GMB union

It was said that Misell was a parking lot attendant. The GMB Union said in a press release that it:

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took pride in going to work to help customers.

On the day in question [Misell] Chose to have a cigarette in the parking lot so he wouldn’t have to stop working and go to the designated smoking accommodation.

Throughout the ridiculous disciplinary process, ASDA’s management falsely alleged that the allegation was in violation of the law and that [Misell’s] Learning difficulties and the inability to read and write were not an issue.

GMB regional organizer Keith Dixon said:

ASDA must adhere to the Equality Act 2010 and make appropriate adjustments for employees with disabilities.

ASDA, who previously signed up for the government’s Disability Confident program, which makes the most of the opportunities offered by employing disabled people, should be ashamed of their actions …

GMB Region London has referred this matter to our legal teams to take it to a labor tribunal for justice to be achieved for [Misell].

But history shows a broader problem for the chronically ill and disabled in England.

Bigger Problem?

As Disability Rights UK wrote, in July 2013 the government levied fees on anyone attempting to bring employers to court. It noted that after the government introduced this:

the number of cases of discrimination on the grounds of disability has decreased significantly. In the two years prior to the introduction of court fees, an average of 1,827 cases of disability were tried every three months. After the introduction of the fees, the average number of cases fell to less than half, an average of 876 cases per three-month period. With the Supreme Court ruling the fees unlawful in a July 2017 case filed by Unison, the number of disability discrimination cases has returned to pre-trial fee levels. Since July 2017, an average of 1,673 disability discrimination cases have been brought to court every quarter, and over 2,000 disability discrimination cases have been brought to court from July to September 2019.

So the Misell case is not an isolated one.

Asda: a “revolving door” to discrimination?

For example, Dixon found that:

ASDA appears to be running a revolving door scenario in which people with disabilities are pushed out of business in order to be replaced by non-disabled colleagues.

Gone are the days when ASDA would respect its employees and support people with disabilities.

It is common practice for colleagues with disabilities to be challenged because of their pace, pace, or issues beyond their control.

Meanwhile, ASDA told Essex Live:

We do not comment on the circumstances of individual colleagues and have advised Mr Misell and his representatives on the next steps after the final hearing

Got a bogus problem?

But as the Mirror reports, Misell feels discriminated against by the ASDA. The boss who fired him he said:

Made assumptions about my political understanding and mental health where he could not have, and that this resulted in him making the wrong decision as a result of the disciplinary process.

This has put me at a disadvantage because of my disability and is a disability discrimination because of my learning disability that was not taken into account.

Unfortunately, Misell’s case is one in thousands in England each year. The fact that disability discrimination is hardly less widespread than it was almost a decade ago shows that there is still something wrong with the way employers treat the chronically ill and disabled.

Featured image via GMB London area

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