A professional boxer who suffered a life-changing head injury during a fight has lost a disability discrimination case after he was declared medically unfit from his job. Gary Murray was given oxygen in the ring then rushed to hospital after suffering a bleed on the brain in his last professional bout.
Mr Murray – whose ring nickname was The Mint – spent nearly a month in hospital, having been put into an induced coma, and suffered short term memory issues. He woke up after being played a video message from then world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua wishing him well.
He returned to his job as an overhead power linesman for Scottish Power on lighter duties, but was later declared medically unfit for his role. However, Mr Murray ‘strongly disputed’ the conclusion and was left frustrated as he was eager to return to work, eventually resigning as he claimed he was ‘left with no choice’.
He tried to sue the energy giant for disability discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal but has now lost his case. Mr Murray, who made his professional debut in 2014, had won all 12 of his fights going into the bout with Belfast’s Patrick Gallagher in Edinburgh in October 2017.
Welterweight Mr Murray, then aged 30, was given oxygen in the ring after the fight was stopped in the 10th round. Following the defeat Mr Murray, from Coatbridge, Scotland, was rushed to hospital and put into an induced coma after doctors discovered a bleed on his brain.
He spent the the month in hospital, then two weeks at a brain injury rehab centre following the ‘traumatic’ injury. The Scottish employment tribunal heard when he returned to work some five months later, an occupational health consultation found he had a reduced attention span, short term memory impairment, and fatigue while performing mentally taxing work.
As part of his Cambuslang-based job, which he began in 2013, Mr Murray maintained and repaired high-power electrical lines and worked at height on transmission towers. Keen worker Mr Murray was given lighter duties but ‘did not like to be seen as seen as doing easier work than others’, the tribunal heard.
It heard Mr Murray found his work environment to be ‘progressively more demanding for him’ as he was required to work longer hours. In September 2019, he was signed off work with stress following disputes over his hours.
That month, an occupational health doctor said he was not fit to return to work. The doctor said: “My initial clinical assessment is that all of Gary’s perceived work related stress and reported difficulties at work appear to be entirely attributable to the late consequences of his known brain injury and the perceived work demands as reported by him.”
Six months later, in March 2020, Mr Murray was still certified as medically unfit to return to work on the power lines. He and his wife, Kelly, strongly disagreed and said he was capable of returning to work as long as he was restricted to his core hours.
He launched an unsuccessful grievance and appeal, with Scottish Power bosses refusing to reinstate him in the role while medically unfit and offered him a job in Dumfries which he rejected. Months later Mr Murray resigned.
A tribunal report said: “His evidence was that by September 15, 2020, having exhausted the grievance procedure, he finally accepted that [the company] would not allow him to return to his job as a linesperson.” Writing to bosses, Mr Murray said: “I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position of overhead linesman at Scottish Power with immediate effect.
“I feel that I am left with no choice but to resign in light of my recent experiences and Scottish Power’s failure to allow me to return to my role as overhead linesman.” The tribunal panel reached a majority conclusion that Scottish Power did not discriminate Mr Murray.
Employment Judge Sandy Meiklejohn said: “We considered that [the company] was entitled to seek to operate its business as efficiently as possible while complying with all legal obligations incumbent on it. In not allowing Mr Murray to return to work when he was assessed to be not medically fit to work overtime and standby hours, the [company] did not act in breach of an express term of his contract of employment.”
Mr Murray’s claims of disability discrimination by way of failing to adjust his hours and constructive unfair dismissal failed.