KBR Manager Fired While Battling Cancer Awarded $3.5 Million

KBR Inc. must pay a former executive at its U.K. unit 2.5 million pounds ($3.5 million) for forcing him out while he battled cancer, in one of the country’s biggest disability discrimination awards.

David Barrow, 64, won his claims for unfair dismissal, harassment and unfavorable treatment as a result of disability last year against the engineering and infrastructure company, for which he worked for almost four decades. A London employment tribunal made the award Wednesday.

Barrow, who was head of program management for the Government Services division in the firm’s EMEA region, started to feel undervalued amid organizational changes and for not getting a raise in line with a promotion he received, the tribunal found. He complained to his superiors while on strong steroids for what doctors believed was a skin condition that turned out to be cancer, and the medication affected his behavior, according to the judges.

They found that his boss had decided he wanted to get rid of Barrow “and the only way this could be done quickly was to dress it up as a breakdown in trust and confidence.”

KBR created “an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for Barrow, Judge Tony Hyams-Parish ruled in an initial decision on liability in December.

Barrow’s lawyer, Anita Vadgama, said in a statement that “justice has been served, all 2.5 million pounds of it.” Another lawyer on the case, Karen Jackson, said on Twitter that the award was likely the second-largest in a tribunal disability case.

Houston-based KBR said it respects the court’s decision and “is committed to conducting its business honestly and with integrity” and “creating a workplace where our employees feel valued and respected.”

The largest known award in a disability case is that of a Natwest Group Plc branch worker who was awarded 4.6 million pounds after the bank forced her to keep working at a till despite knowing she was suffering from injuries from a car crash.

In the KBR case, Barrow told the tribunal that the steroids made him feel like his “head was like a pressure cooker with all my emotions overflowing.”

The tribunal found particular fault in KBR’s conduct after it became aware Barrow was diagnosed with cancer. A “terse” email criticizing Barrow for non attendance at a meeting while he was being treated, “simply was not proportionate,” the judge said.

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