Dismissed BISC Employee files for disability discrimination, citing depression

Terminated worker seeks between £40,000 and £65,000 in damages

The Bader International Centre.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Adrian Thomas, the former general manager of catering services at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), claimed he was terminated because of his mental illness. 

Thomas is seeking remedy for personal injury, loss of benefits, and exemplary damages for a total of between £40,000 and £65,000. 

He claims he was “discriminated against on the grounds of disability.” In the United Kingdom, the 2010 Equality Act considers severe depression lasting 12 months or more as a disability. 

The complaint was submitted on Oct. 1 for review by an employment tribunal in the UK, following a period of failed conciliation efforts by a third party. 

Also involved in the case is Compass Group, a contractor for hospitality and catering services, which placed Thomas at the BISC, where he worked from Apr. 10, 2017, to Aug. 17, 2018. 

Queen’s University issued a statement in response to The Journal’s questions. 

“Both Queen’s and the BISC are committed to creating a positive environment for all members of the BISC community.  BISC employees receive training on mental health and wellness and have access to a local counsellor who provides counselling supportfor students, faculty and staff at the BISC.  We continue to look for opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of the BISC community,” it read.

“Due to privacy considerations, we will not comment further about specific individuals, ongoing human resource issues, or the outcomes of such matters.”

In an interview with The Journal, Thomas said he’s suffered from depression since 2011. However, in June, his mental health deteriorated, forcing him to take leave from work.

Though he’d sought time off, Thomas described his mental health at the time as “progressively getting worse.”

On Jul. 21, shortly after returning to work, Thomas claimed there was a confrontation with a colleague, which caused a panic and anxiety attack that forced him to leave the site.

Later, a doctor recommended Thomas take five weeks off work due to depression, anxiety, and stress.

On Aug. 28, Thomas received a formal notice of dismissal from the BISC in an email from Iain Ball, senior regional manager for Compass Group. At the time, Thomas was still on leave for his mental health.

In an email to Ball, Julie Ryan, enterprise director at the BISC, wrote the BISC had “lost confidence” in Thomas.

“With our increasing business, the highly pressurized work environment, in respect of our catering provision, will continue. We therefore do not believe this is the right place for Adrian to work, either for his sake or for ours as your client.”

In Ryan’s email to Ball, she claimed to have reports of Thomas’ interactions being of an unacceptable standard, dating back several months.

Ryan said he exhibited“[g]eneral negative attitudes to comments regarding provision, including responses to Google reviews andstudent/staff suggestions.”

Following his dismissal from the BISC, Thomas filed his complaint.

Thomas received notice from Compass Group that if no other placement is found for him, he will be terminated from their employment on Nov. 23.

Before Thomas’ claim was submitted to the tribunal panel, it went through The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), a third-party conciliation service. The tribunal will decide whether the claim will advance to the panel on Oct. 28.

BISC’s representative did not engage with Thomas’ accusations, nor did they respond to ACAS.

If the BISC doesn’t respond to the claim before Oct. 28, the decision will be based on the information Thomas has submitted.

In his claim summary submitted to ACAS, Thomas wrote his reaction to the argument on Jul. 21 was “linked to the recent deterioration in [his] long-term depression in the preceding[two] months.”

“I assert without this consequence of my long-term depression, the client would not have made this decision, and as such, it qualifies as a direct consequence of a disability.”

“[The BISC has] shown no remorse or acknowledgement of their actions and have a long history of poor response to mental ill health in the workplace which has included significant staff absence and 1 suicide completion,” Thomas wrote in his tribunal claim form.

“One employee completed suicide in April of 2018 and no impact support [was] put in place for employees following this.”

In his ACAS claim summary, Thomas described giving talks to students at the BISC about mental health and the promotion of his charity, Different

Minds—established in Oct. 2017 to promote good mental health—which required Thomas to discuss his personal experiencewith depression.

On May 30, The Gazette profiled Different Minds and Thomas’s marathon, but has since removed the article.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.