A cafe worker suffering from cancer who was sacked for taking too much sick leave has won a landmark discrimination case with the help of Unite.
55 year old grandmother Christine Lofty was fired by her boss after she was diagnosed with pre-cancerous ‘lentigo malignia’ on her face.
A cancer-suffering cafe worker who was fired for taking too much sick leave has won a landmark discrimination case .
Christine Lofty, 55, was sacked in the street by her boss after she she was diagnosed with pre-cancerous ‘lentigo malignia’ on her face.
She was off work for about ten months as she underwent treatment to stop the disease from spreading and to save her life.
But after losing her job she took her employer to a tribunal which wrongly judged that ‘pre-cancer’ meant ‘before’ cancer.
An appeal was subsequently lodged based on evidence that included a letter from Christine’s doctor which explained that ‘pre-cancer’ is a medical term for cancer that is contained. The appeal hearing then found in favour of Mrs Lofty and the victory will now mean that people suffering from pre-cancer will have their rights protected under the Equality Act.
Unite Legal Services took on the legal case for unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 on Mrs Lofty’s behalf, as the pre-cancer cells meant she had a form of cancer which is considered to be a disability. The claim for unfair dismissal was won in October 2016, but the Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim for discrimination as it was wrongly judged that she was not disabled.
Following the mistake by the Employment Tribunal, Unite appealed the case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in January 2017, the appeal was heard in January 2018 and found in favour of Mrs Lofty.
The legally binding decision by the EAT agreed with Unite’s argument that pre-cancer is actually a form of cancer and that Mrs Lofty was therefore deemed as ‘disabled’ at the point of diagnosis, which is when the Equality Act becomes relevant, rather than at the point of her dismissal.
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett said:
This is a landmark case which will help ensure that employers cannot dismiss and discriminate against their workers who are suffering from any form of cancer.
Workers who experience the anguish of developing cancer at work will be reassured that their employer can’t simply dismiss them because of their illness, as this is now clearly understood that all forms of cancer are legally protected. This means that employers should be taking positive steps to make reasonable adjustments, as well as not discriminating by dismissal.
The fact that this case went to an Employment Appeal Tribunal means it is legally binding and can now be used in similar cases. Unite could not let this case drop as we had to ensure we won justice for victims of cancer. This was an extremely complicated case and without the support of Unite Legal Services, our member would not have received the legal redress for the discrimination that she suffered.