Captain Mike Lawson, 48, said he had been badly treated by the bosses after “totally unfounded” speculation suggested that he had made “40 winks” on a flight from Heathrow to Hong Kong in September 2015.
Lawson was fired by the airline in May 2017, the bosses citing his failure to pass two flight simulator tests as a reason for his dismissal.
But he says the test assessor was “needlessly aggressive” because the airline became hostile to him after the flight from Hong Kong.
The 48-year-old driver is suing for £ 1.7 million, saying he was unjustly dismissed. He also claims discrimination on the grounds of disability on the grounds that he was mentally ill due to stress and anxiety when he took the tests, in part because of his inability to defend himself against rumors.
Her disability claim was dismissed by a labor court last January, but was reinstated by judge Matthew Gullick at the London Employment Appeals Tribunal.
The court heard that Mr. Lawson was flying the Virgin plane from Heathrow to Hong Hong when his two co-pilots fell seriously ill at the same time, leaving him alone in command. He said the fact that the airline did not publish a report on the incident meant that he could not defend himself against speculation which, according to a judge, was “false”.
“Mr. Lawson decided to continue the flight rather than landing en route, and he landed safely in Hong Kong,” said Justice Gullick. “But he says the incident sparked rumors and gossip among his colleagues. Such rumors were false, but nevertheless his colleagues were reluctant to work with him. “
His employers investigated the events during the flight and Mr. Lawson said he began to experience stress and anxiety shortly after, added the judge. He was “removed from office” between October and November 2015, but “he was not told that he had done something wrong and that he was not subject to any restrictions.”
Lawson, who has since found employment with another airline, alleges unfair dismissal and discrimination based on disability, claiming that he was mentally ill at the time of the tests and that his bosses should have considered retraining him and to test it again.
The case was brought to a labor court last January, when the disability claim was denied on the grounds that he was not disabled at the time of the tests.
However, Mr. Lawson appealed and, in a recent decision, Justice Gullick reversed the decision and ordered that his claim for invalidity be reinstated and heard again with the claim for unfair dismissal.
No date has been set for the referral of the case to the labor court.