Olivia Keenan | Trainee Solicitor

Worker teased over phobia of cotton wool wins £9000 compensation

A worker with a phobia of cotton wool balls has won a £9,000 pay-out after colleagues “taunted him” by putting them down his shirt.

Mr Burns, who suffers from sidonglobophobia — a condition that makes him “fearful and anxious” when around cotton wool balls — was dismissed after reacting to repeated provocation which included being pelted with the balls and finding them tied to pieces of machinery he was working with at Plastic Mouldings Ltd in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

An employment tribunal heard that Mr Burns took the cotton wool from his colleague and put it in his locker before commencing a game of “hot and cold”. His colleague Marcus Wilson complained to the line manager at Plastic Mouldings Limited, accusing Mr Burns of theft. Mr Wilson said that as well as stealing the cotton wool, Mr Burns had threatened to physically assault him – something the latter claimed was “only banter” before he gave back the cotton wool.

The complaint escalated to Michael McQueen- product manager- who dismissed Mr Burns despite Mr Wilson protesting that he should not lose his job.

Mr Burns, who had worked at the company for 10 years, was dismissed in November 2017.

The tribunal held that Mr Burns had been unfairly dismissed and awarded £9000 in compensation.

In Scotland (along with the rest of the UK), employees have protection from unfair dismissal if they meet the qualifying period, which is 2 years continual service. If an employee has been employed for less than the qualifying period they cannot claim for unfair dismissal. The only exception to this is if the dismissal relates to an ‘automatically unfair’ reason or discrimination.

Examples of ‘automatically unfair’ dismissals include, but are not limited to, if you’re dismissed because you are pregnant or on maternity leave or have asked about your legal rights at work, such as the right to be paid the minimum wage.

To prove your dismissal linked to discrimination you would need to show the discrimination was based on one or more of the protected characteristics. The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

There are many situations in which individuals are dismissed in circumstances they consider to be unfair. Jackson Boyd specialises in helping people who have lost their jobs, and we have considerable expertise in dealing with unfair dismissal cases. Click here to contact us online or to speak to a member of our specialist team or call 0333 222 1855

Olivia Keenan

Olivia Keenan

Dispute Resolution Team

'The best part of my job is building a relationship with my clients and assisting them through a difficult time, ultimately achieving the best outcome possible for them.'

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