Autistic Subway worker awarded £15,000 for discriminatory dismissal

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An employee in a Subway sandwich store has been awarded £15,484 after a tribunal judge ruled he was dismissed as a direct consequence of being autistic.

Andrew Everitt’s employer, Regal Consultancy Ltd – which supplies staff to Subway stores in Suffolk – failed to put special measures in place when it began a disciplinary process against him, the tribunal ruled. As a consequence, he was treated less favourably because of his disability.

The case dates back to October 2015, when Everitt had been working at the chain’s Parkway branch for a year. He had been diagnosed with high-functioning autism in 2013 and said he had informed his line manager of his condition.

A hygiene inspector visited the branch and the store failed its evaluation, with the workplace found to be a “mess” containing out-of-date food that had not been thrown away.

Everitt was summoned to a disciplinary hearing a few days later, which he attended alone. He was dismissed by letter as a result of his behaviour at the meeting, and his inability to explain the hygiene inspection, which was described as “wholly inadequate”. A colleague in the store was given a written warning. 

Everitt appealed the decision and was offered his job back, but refused as he felt “bullied” by the disciplinary process. The tribunal found he had suffered disability discrimination as a result of his treatment, and his employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments to the disciplinary interview by allowing a family member to attend with him. A claim for constructive dismissal failed as Everitt was judged not to have resigned his position.

Sallie Davies, a discrimination adviser at the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, who represented Everitt at the tribunal, said: “For a person with autism to be subjected to fast-paced questioning without being given a chance to think, and maybe complicated questions, was one of the reasons it was discriminatory. [His employer] didn’t allow Andrew to have somebody with him either, such as a family member. That would be a normal thing you would do to reassure him.”

Everitt said he pursued the case because he wanted to illustrate how people with autism felt their condition was “ignored” in workplaces.

It has emerged that Everitt has yet to receive his compensation from Regal Consultancy. The East Anglian Daily Times quoted the firm’s director, Gurdeep Sethi, claiming that settling the bill would put other staff under threat: “The company isn’t financially viable to pay that. It’s not to say we won’t pay it. We might be working on some sort of payment plan.”

A Subway spokesperson said: “The Subway brand is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment and does not condone discrimination of any kind. All stores are independently owned and operated by franchisees who handle all staffing matters. We do require franchisees to follow all local and country laws.”