A wheelchair tennis executive has been sacked after refusing to take a Covid shot despite the government ending almost all restrictions at the time, a court has heard.
Sarah Synan has sued the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after it placed ‘particularly severe restrictions’ on her when she breached its ‘hard line’ Covid policy by refusing to take a shot.
Ahead of the US Masters in October 2021, the ITF enforced a strict policy that employees must be double-hit to travel – even though there was no requirement to be vaccinated to enter the country at the time .
Miss Synan was unable to attend the tournament and faced other tough restrictions which meant she could not attend the 2021 Christmas party either.
Sacked after the start of the “living with Covid” plan
Then, on February 22, 2022 – the day after the government announced the end of the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test – Miss Synan was sacked from her £37,500 job as “ wheelchair tennis team leader.
She successfully sued the ITF for unfair dismissal and won £27,465 in compensation, after the court ruled it would have been obvious to the federation that the hardships of Covid-19 were dissipating and her dismissal was unreasonable.
The audience in Croydon, south London, was told that Miss Synan had hosted and competed in international competitions such as the Paralympic Games and the US Masters.
Miss Synan said she had ‘anxiety’ about getting vaccinated and believed ‘the only downside was a restriction on her movement’. She had Covid in March 2020 and a mild episode in 2021.
“Hard line on non-vaxxed people”
Internal emails from Alistair Williams, the ITF’s wheelchair tennis manager, and Jane O’Sullivan, its human resources manager, showed them how to deal with unvaccinated employees such as Miss Synan.
Ms O’Sullivan told her: ‘This is a serious thing and I think we need to take a tough line on ‘non-vaxxed’ people. »
She told the court the initiative ‘came from the chairman himself’, David Haggerty, adding that he ‘felt it was no longer acceptable for any member of the ITF to represent them at an event. internationally if they had not been vaccinated.
Miss Synan was told in November 2021 that she had to provide negative lateral flow tests whenever she was in the office, had to get approval for overseas holidays and had to discuss with their manager ‘how to manage their attendance at staff meetings or social gatherings”.
Mr Williams sacked Miss Synan in February 2022, saying she was ‘putting visitors at risk’.
Rules at odds with government advice
Concluding that she had been unfairly dismissed, labor judge Eoin Fowell said the restrictions were “particularly harsh” because they contradicted government advice.
He said: “The national and international Covid situation was clearly improving at the time of Miss Synan’s dismissal. It had been over a year since the last UK lockdown and, as already pointed out, the Government had announced an end to all restrictions.
“Certainly, at the time of the appeal hearing, they could no longer doubt that it was only a matter of time. The restrictions surrounding the omicron variant were gone. Fairness demands that all of this has been taken into consideration.
“The ITF should have at least considered how long the restrictions were likely to last. »
Mr Justice Fowell said that of the remaining international events for the ITF, an ‘obvious alternative’ would have been to rearrange plans so that Miss Synan’s colleagues could go in her place, and who were ‘ready and willing to do so’. TO DO “.