A senior IT worker on sick leave since 2008 tried to sue a tech giant for discrimination because he hadn’t been given a pay rise. Ian Clifford brought tribunal proceedings against IBM alleging that he had been treated unfavourably for something arising from his disability. The ‘something’ relied upon was his 15-year absence due to sickness. The unfavourable treatment was a failure to increase his salary over this period, comparing himself to employees who were not disabled and were able to work.
Mr Clifford remained employed by IBM, despite being permanently unable to work due to health reasons, to facilitate payments under a health insurance scheme through which he was paid 75% of his salary (guaranteed until the age of 65). Unsurprisingly, his claim of disability discrimination failed before the tribunal.
The Judge said: “The claim is that the absence of increase in salary is disability discrimination because it is less favourable treatment than afforded those not disabled”. He concluded that “this contention is not sustainable because only the disabled can benefit from the plan…It is not disability discrimination that the plan is not even more generous…It is more favourable treatment, not less.”
Thankfully, a sensible decision was reached in this case. Pay rises are generally used to reward increased experience, contribution to the employer’s business and to recognise loyalty. Mr Clifford had not worked actively for 15 years. He remained employed by IBM merely to facilitate an insured benefit. Insurance schemes such as the one through which Mr Clifford continued to be remunerated are a significant and valuable benefit to employees who become incapacitated during their working lives. Many are not as lucky as Mr Clifford.
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