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“Pull yourself together” comment to employee with depression amounted to disability discrimination

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on April 25, 2016

Following a survey by AXA PPP Healthcare in which nearly 70% of employers said they were more likely to accept back pain than depression as a valid reason to take time off work, an employment tribunal has upheld a complaint that a comment to an employee suffering with depression that “everyone gets depressed sometimes, you just have to pull yourself together” amounted to discrimination arising from disability.

The Claimant in that case had received warnings for failure to comply with the absence reporting procedure, lateness and for making a mistake at work. During an appraisal with a director, the Claimant became tearful and was advised that she should see her GP. The Claimant informed the director that she had been diagnosed with depression and he responded by saying that he had no sympathy for “this kind of thing” and that “everyone gets depressed sometimes, you just have to pull yourself together”.

Following further periods of absence and another work error, the Claimant was late arriving for work because, she said, the medication she was taking for her depression had caused her to oversleep. The company started disciplinary proceedings and the Claimant responded by resigning.

The Claimant brought claims in the employment tribunal for disability discrimination.

The ET was critical of the director’s comments to the Claimant, saying that they trivialised and were dismissive of the Claimant’s illness and his suggestion that a person with depression should just ‘pull yourself together’ was humiliating and offensive.

The ET ruled that the director’s unsympathetic approach to the Claimant’s condition led to discrimination arising from disability under the Equality Act 2010. It also upheld the Claimant’s additional claims for failure to make reasonable adjustments and harassment.

The employer agreed to pay compensation of £7,500 and £893 in costs.


This article is not a substitute for legal advice. The information may be incorrect or out of date and does not constitute a definitive or complete statement of the law. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice in any specific situation. Readers should obtain legal advice and not rely on the information in this article.