Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 12:03 UK

HIV fire service man sues brigade

Michael Ashton (Photo courtesy of MEN Syndication)
Mr Ashton claims he was discriminated against because he has HIV

A fire service control room operator with HIV is suing Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service for disability discrimination over his condition.

Michael Ashton told an employment tribunal in Manchester he had to take time off work because of his condition.

Mr Ashton, who worked for the service for five years prior to diagnosis in 2006, claims management threatened to discipline him for too many absences.

The brigade denies discrimination against Mr Ashton.

Mr Ashton lodged a formal grievance against the brigade's management because of the way he was treated, the tribunal heard.

Sacking threat

He informed his department boss of his condition on 3 August 2006 - the day after he was diagnosed - and went on sick leave until 11 August.

He then had further periods off work in September, October and December, the hearing was told.

In January 2007, he said he was told by his watch manager Philippa Palmer that advice needed to be taken as to how sick monitoring was to proceed and whether there should be a disciplinary procedure.

I was struggling to come to terms with my diagnosis and I felt I was being treated unfairly.
Michael Ashton

Mr Ashton told the tribunal: "She said that even though my sickness was covered under the Disability Discrimination Act, I could still be found incapable of doing my job and sacked."

In mid-January, he went off work with work-related stress. He asked for a copy of the brigade's HIV policy but was told that no policy was in place, he told the hearing.

He added: "I was advised there was no policy in place, but one was being produced. To date, it is understood that this has not been completed."

He informed the hearing that due to the stress, his immune system was lower than it would normally be for a person with his condition.

In June last year, after further periods of sickness, he made a request for disability leave which was not granted.

He later submitted his resignation on the grounds of ill health but told the tribunal this was not accepted either. He is still technically employed by the brigade.

Mr Ashton told the hearing: "I was struggling to come to terms with my diagnosis and I felt I was being treated unfairly.

"There was a large amount of stress going on and no support from the fire service."

The hearing continues.


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