An East London employment tribunal has ruled that the low-cost airline Ryanair discriminated against a senior member of cabin crew who was diagnosed with suffering a benign neoplasm of the brain. Ryanair failed to make any reasonable adjustment for the sick flight attendant and refused to move her to a ground-based role in contravention of equality law ruled the tribunal earlier this month.
Margita Dworak had worked for Ryanair since 2004, initially as a contract worker, before becoming a directly employed member of cabin crew in 2006. All seemed to be going well for Dworak who worked out of Ryanair’s Stansted base and was eventually promoted to the senior position of Customer Services Supervisor in 2013.
But around 2015, her health quickly deteriorated. Dworak told the tribunal that it started with her suffering severe headaches and moments where she struggled to talk or even make coherent thoughts. These episodes continued for nearly two years before Dworak decided to seek medical advice in her native Poland. She was diagnosed with suffering from a brain tumour.
Dworak went on sick leave but initial contact from her colleagues at Ryanair was only in connection with an outstanding safety report for an incident she wasn’t even directly involved in. In fact, it took over two months before someone from Ryanair’s human resources department phoned her for the “first welfare” check.
Thankfully, the tumour was non-cancerous but as a result, Dworak was taken off the priority list for surgery. After four months on sick leave, she was still waiting for an operation to remove the tumour but was at least given the all-clear to go back to work – albeit only on ground duties.
Dworak got in contact with Ryanair and requested ground-based work but this is where her efforts hit a wall. She was told there were no ground-based job available and if one did become available then she would have to apply for it like anyone else. Dworak continued trying to secure a ground-based job and in early January even showed up for work on several occasions before being sent home.
One manager sent a “surprisingly intemperate letter” to Margita, claiming it was “unreasonable for you to expect that the company could create a ground-based job for you where one simply does not exist.” A grievance to Eddie Wilson, the airline’s head of people was ignored and then sent back to the same manager who had rejected Margita’s previous requests for work.
The head of Ryanair’s cabin crew bases across Europe eventually got involved but still, no progress was made. The airline offered Dworak the opportunity to apply for jobs in other countries but many of these required specialist skills or qualifications – the tribunal suggested that the few available administrative positions available for Margita could easily have been transferred from Dublin to Stansted.
Eventually, Margita found another job at Stansted with the airport’s owner and left Ryanair. The tribunal sided with Dworak, finding that she had been discriminated against and was constructively dismissed. A further hearing will be arranged at a later date to decide on compensation.
Ryanair provided a one line statement in relation to the verdict, simply saying: “We have instructed our lawyers to appeal this decision.”