Morning Meetings Put Amazon Employee With Anxiety at a Disadvantage, Edinburgh Tribunal Says

In Mr R Paterson v Amazon UK Services Limited, an Amazon employee with anxiety successfully claimed that his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for his condition. The employee had requested an afternoon meeting because his medication affected his ability to function in the morning. Amazon’s refusal to accommodate this request led to the successful claim.

Delve into this article, where we explore what happened. We provide a detailed account of what transpired and the tribunal’s conclusions. If you have any questions or believe you’ve experienced a similar situation, contact Redmans Solicitors today. As specialists in employment law, we can offer expert advice on your potential next steps.

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The Facts in Mr R Paterson  v Amazon UK Services Limited

Background of the Amazon Employee with Anxiety

Mr Paterson (“The Claimant”) began working as a capacity planner for Amazon UK Services Limited (“The Respondent”) on 5 July 2021. At the time, he did not inform the respondent about his medical history.

The claimant had suffered from social anxiety since childhood, and in 2019, he was hospitalised and unofficially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The impact of his conditions varied on a daily basis, meaning they sometimes had little effect. Yet, on other occasions, his condition could be so debilitating that it led to panic attacks and forced isolation.

Assigned to the Edinburgh office, the claimant initially worked from home due to the pandemic. Because of this, all communication and meetings within the company occurred via video calls.

Issues with the Claimant’s Performance are Raised

In October 2022, the Amazon employee with anxiety began face-to-face meetings with his manager, Sasha Horn. During these one-to-ones, issues with the claimant’s performance were regularly raised. Over the following months, these concerns were also raised with the respondent’s HR.

On 19 January 2023, Mr Horn again raised concerns about the claimant’s performance, detailing his comments via email. He outlined the areas in which he expected improvement, including communication, and explained that future one-to-ones would be used to assess progress. Here, the manager had concerns that the claimant was too focused on a technical project, neglecting his other assignments.

Unfortunately, by 7 March, Mr Horn felt the claimant’s progress hadn’t been sufficient. As such, the Amazon employee with anxiety was provided with two options. He could either accept a settlement offer and leave the company or participate in a formal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

The employer informed the claimant that he had until 17 March to decide. However, due to anxiety, the claimant began sick leave four days before this deadline.

Amazon Employee with Anxiety Raises a Grievance

On 21 March, the claimant emailed the respondent to raise a grievance. He outlined that he wasn’t currently fit enough to participate in grievance procedures but would do so when able. His grievance concerned two main points; those being:

  1. Issues with the PIP and associated procedures and
  2. A failure to make reasonable adjustments when the employer should have known or could have reasonably been expected to know about his mental impairments.

Comprised in the grievance email, the claimant also disclosed information about his conditions for the first time. He informed his employer about his social anxiety and his unofficial diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

In the subsequent months, the Amazon employee with anxiety remained on sick leave and was eventually referred to Occupational Health (OH). A video meeting was initially scheduled for 18 May, but this was rearranged due to the claimant’s internet issues. 

Before a new date was confirmed, the claimant requested the rescheduled meeting to occur in the afternoon. This was because his anxiety medication was impacting him in the mornings. However, when informed of the rearranged date, scheduled for 7 June, he learned it was set for 8:45 that morning.

The claimant attended the meeting, and OH gave the respondent a report on his condition. They learned that he did suffer from social anxiety and believed the Equality Act 2010 was likely to apply to his circumstances.

Claimant Resigns with Immediate Effect

On 8 June, a grievance meeting took place via telephone, where the two issues raised by the claimant were discussed. Following the meeting, on 13 June, the respondent provided the claimant with the minutes from the meeting. They asked him to confirm whether he believed they were a true reflection of the discussions.

The next day, the Amazon employee with anxiety responded, claiming the minutes were “offensively inaccurate”. He stated that he would review his transcript and provide his notes.

Then, on 19 June, the claimant contacted the respondent to express his concerns about the grievance hearing. He claimed that he was only given the opportunity to discuss the PIP and mentioned his considerations for initiating legal proceedings. He explained that these would address issues of constructive dismissal, disability discrimination, and harassment.

Subsequently, the claimant resigned with immediate effect on 6 July and initiated employment tribunal proceedings three days later. On 11 August, he learned his grievance hadn’t been upheld.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

Following the hearing, Employment Judge Sangster ruled that the claimant had been disadvantaged by the requirement to attend the OH meeting in the morning. Given that the claimant had informed Amazon of his social anxiety and bipolar disorder, the tribunal held that the respondent should have accommodated his request for an afternoon meeting.

Consequently, the tribunal found in the claimant’s favour, awarding £1,596.99 for the employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments. Despite this, none of the other claims made by the Amazon employee with anxiety succeeded. This was because he hadn’t informed his employer of his conditions before 21 March, meaning they were unaware of their obligations toward him.

Get Help with Redmans

In light of the above judgment, neurodiverse employees must promptly inform their employer of their conditions. Without doing so, their employer might not be legally obligated to make reasonable adjustments.

If you have any questions or believe you’ve faced similar circumstances to the Amazon employee with anxiety, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors have vast experience in the employment law sector, enabling us to provide specialist advice. Should you have an eligible case, we could help navigate you through the legal procedures.

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