United Kingdom

Woman, 36, sacked from tanning salon because she once suffered with skin cancer wins £9,300 payout

A mother has won a £9,300 payout after she was sacked from a tanning salon because she used to have skin cancer.

Sofi Lorimer, 36, from Birtley, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, used tanning beds twice a week before she was diagnosed with cancer - and quit using them after making a recovery. 

But while working as an assistant at a tanning salon, she had to get inside one of the beds while it was on to fix a fault, leaving her feeling 'anxious'.

She admitted to boss Aslam Mohammed she previously had malignant melanoma, and said she was 'hoping' she didn't need to get inside a machine while it was switched on again.

Three days later, he sacked her over phone for 'health and safety reasons'.

Sofi Lorimer with her son. She used tanning beds twice a week before she was diagnosed with cancer - and quit using them after making a recovery

Sofi Lorimer with her brother Jordan - just before her diagnosis in 2015. She has won a £9,300 payout after she was sacked over her cancer

According to tribunal documents, he told her: 'I don't feel you should work here anymore as you had cancer and I don't feel it is appropriate.' 

But judges ruled Mohammed's company Smart Tan UK Limited discriminated against Sofi due to her disability, and should pay her compensation.

Sofi used tanning beds twice a week for around seven years, before she stopped following 15 operations to remove cancer from her skin in 2015.

Tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs that emit mostly UVA light which is up to three times more intense than the rays in natural sunlight.

Following the tribunal decision, Sofi said: 'I just wanted him to understand he had been cruel and you just can't treat people like that.

'How would he feel if it was his daughter. But he just thought he was untouchable.

'Who would sack someone for that reason? It was such a shock. I was devastated.

'It was such a relief when it was over and done with and I didn't have to think about him anymore. The anxiety he caused me was horrible.

'I want others to know they can seek legal action for situations like mine.'

Sofi, then 30, was working as a salon assistant at a different sunbed shop in September 2015 when she was diagnosed with the malignant melanoma.

Doctors weren't sure what caused her tumours, but Sofi is convinced it was related to her frequent use of tanning beds.

She would use them twice a week, covering her body in chemicals to accelerate her tan rather than any protective sunscreen.

Sofi Lorimer after her skin cancer removal surgery. She had 15 operations to remove grade one tumours from her skin in 18 months between September 2015 and March 2017

She had 15 operations to remove grade one tumours from her skin in 18 months between September 2015 and March 2017 at the Royal Victoria hospital in Newcastle.

'It was my chill-time using a sun-bed,' she said, 'I absolutely loved it.

'Who doesn't love the feel of the sun and going brown. But once melanoma spreads you're dead, so I wouldn't take the risk now.

'Having cancer was terrifying. Every day I thought I might die I'm very fortunate that I didn't have to have chemo.

'I kept working throughout. I don't know how I managed that with also having my two older kids at the time.'

She applied, and was excited to be given, a job as a tanning and salon assistant with Smart Tan UK Limited in March 2020.

Sofi said she was working when one of the tanning beds wouldn't switch off, on July 25, 2020.

She was asked to 'enter a sunbed when the tubes were on to fix a fault', the grounds of complaint submitted at the tribunal said.

Sofi's boss asked her to go into the machine while he directed her how to fix it over the phone, she said.

According to the documents, she later sent Mohammed a text about her cancer.

Sofi used tanning beds twice a week for around seven years, before she stopped following 15 operations to remove cancer from her skin in 2015

It added: 'Some people think I'm mental for working in a sunbed shop but I really enjoy and that's why I do but I don't use sunbeds and never will because of this.

'Today when the bed cut out I had to get into the bed to fix it and I'm really anxious because I shouldn't be under any kind of UV rays, I just wanted to make you aware as I was hoping that I wouldn't have to do that if it happens again just wait for the bed to stop.'

Her boss didn't reply, but called her three days later, and according to legal files said: 'I don't feel you should work here anymore as you had cancer and I don't feel it is appropriate.'

Speaking now, Sofi said: 'He doesn't get to make that decision for me.

'It absolutely wasn't in my job description to have to go into the sunbeds.

'The fear that melanoma might come back is always there, so I take care of my skin and wouldn't dream of going on the sun beds.

'He brought back all the pain and fear of being ill. I didn't have to tell him my personal circumstances.

'But I thought he would say 'no problem - we can put something in place so you can keep working here', as a normal manager would.' 

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