Wednesday, October 20, 2010

UK wheelchair user wins £6,000 after hearing boss refer to him as "Ironside"

From This is Lancashire in the UK:

A wheelchair user who was nicknamed 'Ironside' by a Burnley factory boss has won £6,000 compensation.

Brian Davies, 51, took Remploy to an industrial tribunal after hearing manager Steve Wellens referred to him as the 70s TV detective behind his back.

Ironically, the packaging firm helps people with disabilities return to employment.

Shop steward Mr Davies, who was born with brittle bones and has used a wheelchair all his life, said the jibe was 'derogatory'.

He said: “It was never about the money. I’ve given the bulk of it away to charity.

“But it was down to me to keep my dignity and not be slagged off behind my back. I was not born in a wheelchair - even though I will have to use one for the rest of my life.

“The manager at Burnley, Steve Wellens, got upset about something, so he decided to call me Ironside, and that stuck.

“I pleaded with the company to sort this out but they backed him up.

"I didn’t want to have to go to court and have everyone knowing my business.”

The tribunal in Manchester heard that while Mr Wellens was disciplined for using the name for four years, Mr Davies was still upset and lodged his claim.

He has been awarded a £6,000 payout for his claim after a panel ruled his dignity was ‘violated’ by the attitude of bosses.

Mr Davies, a divorced dad-of-three from Wigan, is the GMB union official who looks after staff at the Remploy sites off Accrington Road, Burnley, and Bank Top, Blackburn.

He said his childhood was marred by other youngsters calling him ‘Ironside’ and ‘cripple’.

“This is the 21st Century and adults don’t go around calling each other silly and derogatory nicknames like that,” said Mr Davies, who was awarded an MBE for his services to disabled people in 2000.

Colleagues at Remploy claimed the union official would often use foul and aggressive language but tribunal judges dismissed their case.

Awarding compensation, employment judge John Sherratt said: ‘We find that his dignity was violated.

“If someone uses what might be considered offensive language it does not mean that the person cannot reasonably be offended by remarks relating to him and his disability.”

A Remploy spokesman said: ‘We accept the tribunal’s decision and apologise to Mr Davies.’