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Case law: Misconduct by disabled employee due to a personality trait may also be caused by disability

Employers should beware of blaming misconduct by a disabled employee solely on a personality trait, as disability may also be a cause - leaving the employer at risk of unfair dismissal and/or discrimination claims - according to a recent ruling.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - June 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A seriously disabled employee with a bad temper (which was unrelated to his disability) lost his temper at a workshop because there was a lack of disabled access. He was dismissed for his subsequent conduct, during which he made racist and offensive comments, harassed one colleague and behaved unacceptably towards others. He claimed unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

The Tribunal found that there was no logical connection between his conduct and his disability – it was due to his temper, which was merely a personality trait.

However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that had he not been disabled, and had therefore been able to gain access to the workshop, he would not have lost his temper. His misconduct therefore had two causes – his disability and the personality trait of having a bad temper. His conduct was therefore related to his disability, even if only in part, and to punish him for it could amount to disability discrimination.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Employers should beware blaming misconduct by disabled employees on a personality trait rather than their disability, as both may have been an effective cause.

Case ref: Risby v London Borough of Waltham Forest UKEAT/0318/15/DM

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