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Preliminary Issues in Disability Discrimination Claims

View profile for Chris Dobbs
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Preliminary Issues in Disability Discrimination Claims

In our last HR forum, Paul and I explored several cases with those who attended looking at the definition of a disability and the point at which a claimant is disabled for the purposes of a claim.

One of those cases dealt with the unsurprising fact that, in order to bring a claim for disability discrimination, the Claimant must meet the definition of a disability at the time of the alleged discriminatory act.

This means they, the claimant, must meet the full definition of a disability (section 6) at the time including that the condition has or is likely to last twelve months.

Rooney v Leicester City Council

Since then, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled on a case which had initially only reached preliminary stages on a similar topic.

In the case of Rooney v Leicester City Council, the Claimant had sought to bring both a disability and sex discrimination claim surrounding her menopause symptoms.

What did the tribunal say?

Both these claims are perfectly viable where the menopause is concerned but the Tribunal dismissed the claims at preliminary stage.

The judge concluded the menopause symptoms did not amount to a disability and, in respect of the sex discrimination claim, that there was insufficient evidence this was the case to allow the claim to proceed.

What did the EAT find?

Ms Rooney appealed and the EAT agreed with her that the original decision failed to properly explain why she did not satisfy the definition of a disability.

The Appeal Judge also noted that the original judge had failed to consider additional details provided in relation to the sex discrimination claim.

How does this ruling affect employers?

On a day to day basis this is unlikely to affect most people however it does highlight the importance of all parties ensuring that due consideration is given to the fundamental questions from an early stage.

It is unusual for a Respondent to challenge the fact of disability in these cases but where it does happen, this outcome shows that even a strike out of the claim may not be cause to relax.

A Specialist Employment Solicitor’s view

“This case highlights again that first instance judges can make mistakes in their reasoning.

If dealing with an individual claiming disability in particular, it is important that businesses conduct themselves mindful of the fact that a finding of disability could go against them.

This should be the case even where they disagree that the individual is in fact disabled.”Employment Solicitor Chris Dobbs’ thoughts.

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