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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Too-tall graduate loses tribunal
Ben Sargeaunt-Thomson
Ben Sargeaunt-Thomson claimed indirect sexual discrimination
A graduate whose job offer from air traffic control was retracted because of his 6ft 10in (2.08m) height, has lost an employment tribunal.

Ben Sargeaunt-Thomson, 24, of Northampton, won a coveted place to train at the National Air Traffic Control Centre in Swanwick, Hampshire.

But health and safety assessors ruled it would be "dangerous" for him to have his 38in (0.97m) legs under the desks.

The tribunal panel said the centre had the right to retract its job offer.

Mr Sargeaunt-Thomson claimed indirect sexual discrimination against National Air Traffic Services (Nats) after his offer of employment was retracted.

I believe Nats wasted three years of my life by messing around with this. It took them two-and-a-half years to realise I was tall
Ben Sargeaunt-Thomson
But the tribunal panel agreed that any discomfort he might experience while sitting at a desk might hamper his ability to carry out an air traffic control job safely.

Mr Sargeaunt-Thomson said: "I will fight this as far as I can because I do believe I should not be discriminated against because of my height in the same way as you cannot discriminate against someone in a wheelchair.

"I believe Nats wasted three years of my life by messing around with this.

"It took them two-and-a-half years to realise I was tall."

Ruling against Mr Sargeaunt-Thomson's claim, Donald Cowling, chairman of the tribunal panel at Southampton, Hampshire, said: "Air traffic control is a safety critical business and air traffic control operators operate as a team."

No complete ban

"We are unanimously of the view that the practice of requiring certain candidates to undertake a display screen equipment assessment, when it is considered that there could be a risk to health and safety in operating the equipment, is justifiable."

He said Mr Sargeaunt-Thomson, who now works for Eurocontrol in Luxembourg where desk heights are adjustable, had complained his legs were too long to fit comfortably under the desks.

A complete ban on very tall people working at the centre had not been applied, he said, adding that each case was dealt with separately.

A spokeswoman for Nats welcomed the decision, adding it was not feasible to fit a purpose-built desk for just one employee.

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