Disabilities and discrimination claims
Sometimes when an employee is dismissed they would claim they were discriminated on the grounds of their disability and issue proceedings in the Employment Tribunal on the grounds of Disability Discrimination.
However, claimants with a disability are not always successful and in particular where the employer had no knowledge of their disability prior to their dismissal.
Many disabilities are not obvious, in particular mental health issues.
In these situations, unless an employee voluntarily discloses the fact that they have a disability, or a condition which could amount to a disability, the employer will have no knowledge of their disability.
In a recent case case of Stott v Ralli Ltd 2021 . Stott (S) had been employed as a paralegal by Ralli (R), a firm of solicitors, but was dismissed during her probationary period due to poor performance.
Following her dismissal, S informed R that she had long-term anxiety as well as depression and this had been the cause of her poor performance. As R had not known about this previously, it stood by its dismissal decision.
S issued a claim for disability discrimination which R defended on the basis that it had no knowledge of S’s disability at the time it dismissed her. The tribunal rejected S’s claim for this reason.
The matter then went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in England. It has now confirmed that the tribunal was right to reject the disability discrimination claim as R did not actually know, and importantly, could not have reasonably known, about S’s disability when it decided to dismiss her.
The lesson to be learnt for both employers and employee is that, once an employee brings a disability to their employer’s attention, they are automatically protected from disability discrimination going forward and therefore have protection from unlawful discrimination and there is an onus on the employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the employee in the workplace.
If you need any employment advice on discrimination or other issues, please contact our employment team or Julie directly at Julie.email@example.com
According to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the tribunal should reject a disability discrimination claim if the employer did not know, and could not have reasonably known, about an employee’s disability. Once you’re made aware of a disability, e.g. via a diagnosis on a fit note, an employee has protection from unlawful discrimination.