A person with cancer won a harassment case after her coworker called the times she had to work from home “comfortable days”.
Human resources worker Ranjit Panesar said she was “looked down upon” by members of her team for being away from the office while undergoing treatment.
She said she often received demeaning comments because there was a “widespread” perception that her working from home amounted to “inactive or inactive” days – her boss telling her her health had not “helped” her. .
And the coworker who called her remote work “cozy days” even tried to pretend it was just a “joke”.
A labor court dismissed the defense, ruling that “all but the most insensitive” should have understood that Ms Panesar was a sick employee who did not welcome the comments.
She is now online for compensation.
The hearing was told Ms Panesar started working for delivery company DX Network Services Limited, headquartered in Slough, Berks, in January 2017.
In June, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was allowed to work from home a few days a week due to her treatment, medications and side effects.
The court heard that during an exchange of work-related emails in January 2019, her colleague Scott Agius, a payroll and benefits specialist, told Ms Panesar: ‘So you have a more comfortable day at home this week?
She replied, “Hahaha… a not so comfortable day in Northampton actually.”
In another email in March 2019, Mr Agius told Ms Panesar: “I’m on vacation for the rest of the week, so you’re going to miss out on the fun of my company until next week when you don’t. are not in one of your comfortable days. “
He also texted her on another occasion calling her to work from home as “chill days” and later claimed that they were just “jokes”.
The court ruled: “There was no evidence of reciprocal comments from Ms. Panesar.
“Her responses were defensive and she seemed to be trying to laugh at it. This in no way lessens the upheaval and vulnerability Ms. Panesar said she felt.
“A defense against ‘jokes’ might be Ms Panesar’s pledge and she ‘gave what she got,’ but it wasn’t present here.
“All but the most insensitive or deliberate should have understood that this was a sick employee who felt vulnerable and did not appreciate these exchanges.”
The court, held in Watford, heard that Ms Panesar’s boss, Daniel Seabrook, equated her work from home with an absence from work.
While setting a date for a date with Ms Panesar, he said: “I know you are ‘away’, sorry for working from home.”
The comment came during a meeting that his role was in danger of being laid off as the company restructured and introduced a new human resources and payroll system.
Mr Seabrook went on to tell Ms Panesar at the meeting: “Your health has not helped you this year.”
Ms Panesar then complained to Mr Seabrook that she felt “looked down upon” by her team members and felt she had to justify herself as comments about her work from home were so frequent.
The court heard: “Ms. Panesar’s case was that such comments were widespread and regularly made.
“She said that working from home was not appreciated by the company and that there was a widespread perception in her workplace that working from home was equivalent to days of inactivity or inactivity.
Ms. Panesar argued that the comments represented a persistent and relentless attitude on the part of individuals in this workplace who felt confident enough to belittle someone with a serious illness because they could not be present at the workplace. office daily. “
The panel concluded that the company had not properly investigated its complaints about the comments made to it.
He said: “DX Network Services officials have sought to limit the investigation to only those for whom there is an indelible record of such comments and, in our view, have deliberately and needlessly put an end to Ms. Panesar’s allegations.
“There was no larger investigation or attempt to interview other people or to place Ms. Panesar’s complaint in its broader and appropriate context.”
In July 2019, Ms. Panesar was fired. However, she claimed the process was a ‘sham’ and that she was screened for it on the basis of her cancer.
The virtually-held labor court dismissed her complaint of unfair dismissal, as well as her complaints of discrimination on the basis of disability and failing to receive reasonable adjustments.
However, her harassment complaint regarding four comments made about her working from home was successful.
Labor judge Gary Tobin ruled: “The comments were undeserved and unwarranted [for] and I am satisfied [they] were related to his reasonable fit.
“Ms. Panesar sincerely believed the comments undermined her dignity.”
Justice Tobin said Ms Panesar and DX Network Services Limited can agree to compensation without the need for a new hearing.