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Motor Trade Legal News

Discrimination arising from disability

Under the Equality Act, there can be claims for direct discrimination and also a separate claim for “discrimination arising from disability” under Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. The Court of Appeal has recently (City of York Council v Grosset) reaffirmed the width of that protection for disabled employees.

The Grosset case involved some facts which most objective bystanders might find surprising. Mr Grosset, a teacher with cystic fibrosis, was stressed by his workload. He was disciplined for gross misconduct for showing an 18 rated film to vulnerable adolescents. His defence was that he asserted this was an error of judgement arising from stress which was linked to a disability. The employer had constructive knowledge that the teacher had a serious condition which could be a disability under the Equality Act and this was necessary for the claim to succeed. Dismissal was plainly an act of unfavourable treatment and, therefore, provided that the claimant could show a cause or connection between the unfavourable treatment and the disability, this will amount of discrimination arising in consequence of disability under Section 15. The Court of Appeal held that there was inconsistency between the fact that he lost his unfair dismissal claim but succeeded in his Section 15 Equality Act claim. The test relating to unfair dismissal is around the band of reasonable responses and gives the respondent employee considerably more latitude. By contrast, Section 15 of the Equality Act, the bands and objective test permitting a tribunal to make an assessment.

Of course, in any direct discrimination arising from a disability claim, an employer can still run a defence of justification. One might have thought that on the facts of this case, justification defence would succeed but the tribunal found (and the Court of Appeal later) that it was entitled to find that the dismissal of the teacher was a disproportionate response and therefore his Section 15 Equality Act claim should succeed.