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Birmingham Employment Court rules against Aston Martin

An Aston Martin worker with spinal issues whose boss told him “we’ve all got back problems here mate” has won £36,000 in a disability claim.

Sean Deanie complained that his supervisor at the luxury car maker, whose models are famously driven by James Bond, made the unsympathetic comment in response to him explaining his back issues.

Mr Deanie suffers from spinal arthritis and wore a back brace to the Aston Martin trim shop. He sued the iconic English manufacturer over the lack of support he received. A Birmingham tribunal heard that the leather fitter wasn’t referred to the occupational health team, and had to bring in his sister’s hairdressing stool because his office chair didn’t support him. His request for shorter hours was refused and he ended up walking out after being forced to carry out overtime which aggravated his back.

Aston Martin claimed that implementing special measures to accommodate Mr Deanie would have been “too expensive”.  Hence, an employment tribunal ruled Aston Martin didn’t take reasonable steps to cater for his disability, and Mr Deanie has won £36,105 in a disability claim.

From January 2018 to July 2019, Mr Deanie worked at Aston Martin’s trim shop at its state-of-the-art headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The employment tribunal heard he was a “good worker, conscientious, diligent and reliable”. His role involved trimming leather on the internal roof sections of vehicles and that involved a certain amount of “stretching, twisting and lifting”.

It was suggested that Mr Deanie felt “obliged” to soldier on because he was “worried” about being “culled” if he complained. Mr Deanie was an agency worker.

The tribunal heard that other colleagues also suffered back pains, and the panel was informed that lead technician Dave Thomas offered Mr Deanie no sympathy. A report said: “[Mr Thomas] said that the man count for the day’s work was short and so Mr Deanie would have to spray again. When Mr Deanie mentioned his back issue Mr Thomas held onto his own back and said ‘we all got back problems here mate'.”

In February 2019 Mr Deanie had to go to A&E as he was “gasping for breath” due to his back pain. He walked out of his job in July 2019, after his request not to work overtime due to back pain was refused.

Mr Deanie won a claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments but lost a direct disability discrimination claim. Mr Thomas’s comment about others suffering bad backs was ruled not to amount to direct disability discrimination.


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