A WORKER with asthma was awarded £42,000 after bosses made her park a ten-minute walk away from her office.
Elaine Taylor-Valles usually parked in the street but requested a bay over winter as she feared her condition would worsen in the cold, a tribunal heard.
But managers at the Passport Office in Liverpool told her she would need a disabled badge as other staff might start asking too.
Ms Taylor-Valles, 49, was later sacked for taking too much time off sick after being absent for almost 100 days in the 14 months she worked there, partly due to her asthma.
A panel ruled she was a victim of disability discrimination, awarding her a £41,984.42 payout.
The hearing in Manchester was told Ms Taylor-Valles began working as a customer services agent in a Passport Office call centre in Liverpool in March 2018.
The tribunal heard she took a 23-day absence in June that year of which a “substantial amount” was related to asthma.
She was then signed off work in July due to acute respiratory infections.
After a formal attendance meeting triggered by her “level of absence” in September, Ms Taylor-Valles wrote to request a car park pass at the office.
But the office had four times as many staff as spaces, the panel was told.
The tribunal heard: “She wrote that, as winter was only round the corner, she was worried and anxious about having another asthma attack.
“She wrote that reducing her walk from the car to the office would help prevent further attacks triggered by the cold wind.
“The [Passport Office] building where [she] worked had its own car parking spaces.
“Some of these were reserved for blue badge holders. The other spaces were available on a first-come first-served basis.
“There were not enough spaces for the number of people who wished to park. There were 225 spaces and 1,100 people who worked on site.
“[She] had been parking in residential streets nearby that could involve a walk of up to 10 minutes between her car and the building.”
HM Passport Office – part of the Home Office – was then advised through an occupational health report to provide a space to Ms Taylor-Valles “if operationally feasible to avoid prolonged walking in inclement weather which is likely to aggravate her symptoms”.
In October, the tribunal heard she was given a written warning for “poor attendance” and told the agency would investigate giving her a parking spot.
Ms Taylor-Valles – who was still on probation – then had to take further time off work as she was having a “very difficult” time with her husband being ill and in hospital, it was said.
Her manager, Danielle Payne, enquired about the parking spot but because she lived within a mile of the office, she could only access disabled parking bays, for which she needed a blue badge.
Meanwhile, Ms Taylor-Valles unsuccessfully appealed against her warning, arguing her absences were related to her asthma.
During the appeal she was told the Passport Office was unable to offer a parking space and recommended she apply for a blue badge, which she did.
The panel heard Ms Payne felt Ms Taylor-Valles, whose probation was due to end, should not be made a permanent staff member because of her attendance record and “aggressive and confrontational” behaviour during work meetings.
In November 2018, she recommended she be dismissed, the tribunal heard.
Ms Taylor-Valles brought various grievances – which were not upheld – and was later off sick due to stress until the New Year.
While getting ready for work in February 2019, she had a severe asthma attack de-icing her car and did not go back to work for 10 days, with further absence in March due to her husband’s poor health.
She was finally sacked in May after 98 days of absence since the start of her employment, 30 of which could be attributed to her asthma.
Bosses were more concerned about opening themselves up to other requests for parking than ensuring they were complying with their duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The tribunal concluded the Passport Office had failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability and had discriminated against and victimised her.
The panel – headed by employment judge Hilary Slater – concluded: “She was seeking a temporary, seasonal, adjustment of having a space near the entrance made available to her during the cold winter months.
“Her Majesty’s Passport Office asserted its normal policy, not considering any adjustment to this.
“It appears to us that it was more concerned about opening themselves up to other requests for parking, if they made an exception to the usual policies, than ensuring they were complying with their duty to make reasonable adjustments.
“Given the respondent had control of its own parking spaces, we conclude it would have been reasonable to provide, on a temporary basis, a parking space to Ms Taylor-Valles during winter months.
“It did not suggest that, whilst the [blue badge] application was pending, they would provide her with a parking space near the entrance.”
The tribunal added that in its view, Ms Taylor-Valles’ behaviour had not merited being refused a permanent role at the agency and ruled the disciplinary action was unfavourable treatment because the warning was given due to absences which were, in part, because of disability.