A REFUSE collector who was discriminated against because he cannot read has been awarded almost £17,000 by an employment tribunal.

Stephen McEwan successfully sued bosses at Biffa Waste Management for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal after they failed to take account of his dyslexia.

The 28-year-old, of Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, was dismissed after being involved in an accident at work that has left him severely injured.

His bosses claimed he had failed to follow health and safety procedures. However it emerged he had been encouraged to sign documents stating he had read and understood guidelines when he had told management he could not understand them.

Mr McEwan was automatically successful in his case because Biffa failed to defend the claim against the company.

However, employment judge James Hendry said Mr McEwan's dyslexia was "clearly an element in the process leading to dismissal and does not seem to have been recognised or acknowledged by (Biffa's) managers".

Mr McEwan described his dismissal as a nightmare, adding he continues to suffer as a result of the accident.

He said: "I was gutted when I was dismissed. To me, I had been knocked down and then sacked for it.

"The whole thing has effectively ruined my life, I can't walk properly and still need to go to physiotherapy.

"I have damaged the nerve in my back and my right leg is working at only about 30 per cent.

"I can't do manual labour now, my doctor says I am not up to it. I have been looking for a job as a driver, but have not been able to get anything so far."

Mr McEwan said he made it clear to management he could not read, but no-one listened to him and he was still told to sign the health and safety documents.

He said: "I tried to explain to them I was dyslexic and could not understand what I was signing, but they didn't care. All they wanted was to get you out doing your job. I brought it up to all the management, but nobody listened to me.

"All of the guys I worked with knew about it and some of them made fun of me because of it."

He added that, while he welcomed the judgment, he would rather still have his job and his health.

He said: "I used to have a good social life and go on holidays, but now I am stuck in the house, still in a lot of pain, so obviously I would rather the whole thing never happened."

Mr McEwan was awarded a total of £16,973.60 by the tribunal following the hearing.

A written judgment on the case states that, in a meeting with his boss following the accident, Mr McEwan "explained he could not read and that a number of documents had been put in front of him by previous managers to sign".

It adds: "He had signed them because he had been asked to do so, although he had explained he couldn't read.

"He explained that managers knew he could not read."

Mr McEwan's lawyer, Derick Maclean, of Thompsons Solicitors, said the judgment sent an important message to employers they cannot discriminate against disabled employees.

He added: "It was brave of Stephen to go up against his bosses and, while this is an important victory for him, it is also a victory for disabled people across Scotland who routinely face discrimination in the work place and in wider society."

Biffa declined to comment.