Man Who’s Been on Sick leave for 15 Year Sues IBM for Not Giving Him a Pay Rise

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A man who has been on extended sick leave for the past 15 years is taking legal action against his employer, IBM, alleging that he has not received a salary increase during his absence, despite the impact of inflation on his earnings.

Ian Clifford, an employee of the tech giant, has been on sick leave since September 2008.

His LinkedIn profile indicates that he has been “medically retired” since 2013.

In that year, Clifford raised a grievance with IBM, expressing his dissatisfaction with not having received a pay rise for the previous five years.

Following negotiations, IBM and Clifford reached a “compromise agreement” that placed him on the company’s disability plan, ensuring that he would not be terminated from employment.

Consequently, Clifford has remained an employee without the obligation to work.

According to the terms of the company’s health plan, which allows an employee to receive three-quarters of their agreed earnings, Clifford has been receiving an annual payment of £54,028.

This arrangement will continue until he reaches the age of 65, resulting in a total payment of approximately £1.5 million.

However, Clifford has filed a lawsuit against IBM, arguing that he is dissatisfied with the lack of increase in his payment over the past decade.

In February 2022, he brought his case to an employment tribunal, alleging disability discrimination and raising similar concerns to those he had previously expressed.

Clifford claimed that he had been treated unfavorably due to the absence of a salary increase since 2013, emphasizing that the value of the payments would diminish significantly due to high levels of inflation.

He stated, “The purpose of the plan was to provide security for employees unable to work, but this objective was not achieved if the payments remained frozen indefinitely.”

However, the employment tribunal in Reading dismissed Clifford’s claim.

The judge, Paul Housego, highlighted that Clifford was receiving a “very substantial benefit” and was, in fact, being treated favorably.

Judge Housego stated, “While active employees may receive pay rises, inactive employees do not. This difference, in my opinion, does not constitute a detriment arising from disability.” He further clarified that Clifford’s complaint was centered on the plan not being generous enough, as the payments had remained at a fixed level since April 6, 2013, for a period of 10 years and could continue to do so.

Judge Housego asserted that the absence of a salary increase did not amount to disability discrimination because only disabled individuals could benefit from the plan.

He concluded, “It is not disability discrimination that the Plan is not even more generous. Even if the value of £50,000 per year were to decrease by half over 30 years, it would still represent a very substantial benefit.”

Do you agree with the judge?

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