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Disabled worker treated unfavourably after asking colleagues not to use her adapted desk.

A House of Commons manager has won a tribunal claim after claiming she was unfairly treated by bosses when she tried to stop colleagues using her adapted workspace for hot desking.

Alison Baker was forced to readjust her workstation after being out of the office because colleagues had used it in her absence, so she left a note on her desk asking them not to.

The note prompted her bosses to start disciplinary proceedings against her, claiming her request was unreasonable.

The modified workstation included a special chair to manage her musculoskeletal pain, which was longstanding. Managers had allowed other staff to use it when she was out of the office following a knee injury between June and August 2018, due to pressure on space in the office.

A tribunal hearing in central London on 19th April ruled she had been ‘treated unfavourably’. Further claims of sex and disability discrimination were dismissed.

An occupational health report had recommended Ms Baker’s desk ‘not be used as a hot desk’ as she ‘needs to have her own dedicated workstation’.

However, the desk was used by colleagues again in September when she had been away from work for a medical appointment, causing her to have to readjust it again on her return.

Employment Judge Jillian Brown ruled Ms Baker had been treated unfavourably after bosses took disciplinary action over the note she left asking colleagues not to use her desk.

Ms Baker also successfully claimed for failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Comment This is an interesting case for employers who have perhaps reduced their office space since the pandemic. In this instance, it was the employer’s decision to take disciplinary action against the member of staff that landed them in hot water. The tribunal ruled that the employee had a right to request that her desk was not used or adjusted in her absence and the employer’s handling of the situation was regarded as ‘unfavourable’ .