Sacked bank manager with diabetes was discriminated against, tribunal rules

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 13 Aug 2019
Sacked bank manager with diabetes was discriminated against, tribunal rules
A bank has been criticised for not taking into account the effects of an employee's type 2 diabetes - after he was sacked for mistakenly locking a customer in a branch for three hours.

An employment tribunal ruled that HBOS bank manager Mr B Kuppala was unfairly dismissed after his condition limited his ability to follow the proper security protocols at his central London branch.

The tribunal concluded that if HBOS had obtained occupational health advice, it would have been told Mr Kuppala was disabled and that "the disability was uncontrolled and likely to have had an effect on his concentration and his tiredness".

In a report prepared for the tribunal, Mr Kuppala's GP explained that the effects of diabetes are worsened by stress, poor diet and irregular breaks. The GP added that Mr Kuppala's diabetes had also worsened due to the demands of his job, a situation exacerbated by being told his job was at risk during a staff reorganisation in 2018.

The closure of three nearby branches resulted in increased footfall at Mr Kuppala’s branch, leaving him unable to take breaks and subsequently failing to control his diabetes. He told the tribunal he felt "shaky, weak, hungry, lethargic and confused".

The tribunal concluded that those symptoms amounted to a "more than minor adverse effect" on Kuppala's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, such as attending work and concentrating.

In May last year, a customer was inadvertently locked in the bank for three hours after Mr Kuppala failed to complete his usual checks to ensure the building was empty when he left to attend an emergency appointment. CCTV images showed he had simply left a set of keys in the front door.

An investigation report stated Mr Kuppala had breached HBOS's security policies, and recommended that formal action be taken for gross misconduct. At a disciplinary hearing Mr Kuppala apologised and blamed the incident on low blood glucose levels which had impacted his concentration.

He was dismissed after the hearing found he had shown "serious disregard for well-documented and established procedures, despite recently completing training that covered exit procedures". A subsequent appeal was thrown out.

Mr Kuppala brought claims of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and disability discrimination against HBOS in February this year.

The employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Mr Kuppala, but said there was still a 10% chance that HBOS would have dismissed him even if they had taken into account his diabetes. HBOS was ordered to pay Kuppala £49,457 for unfair dismissal, discriminatory dismissal and notice pay for wrongful dismissal.

Kate Palmer, associate director of advice for HR, employment law and health and safety consultancy firm Peninsula UK, said: "Despite the fact that the employee had committed serious forms of misconduct and would likely have faced a sanction for this, the failure of the organisation to further investigate his claims that a disability was impacting upon his performance ultimately meant they were found to have discriminated against him."

Neither HBOS nor Mr Kuppala have commented on the case.
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