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Case law: Employers should consider chain of events from disability to dismissal when considering whether dismissal is 'consequence' of disability

Employers should consider whether a proposed dismissal is the culmination of a chain of linked events starting with the employee's disability because, if it is, the dismissal may be a 'consequence' of the disability and therefore discriminatory, according to a recent ruling.

December 2018

This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2018

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.

An employee was off work with work-related depression and stress after raising a sex discrimination grievance. When she refused to return to the laboratory she had previously worked in, the employer dismissed her. She claimed unfair dismissal claiming that her dismissal was because she had been off sick, due to her disability, and her dismissal was therefore discriminatory.

Her employer argued that she had been dismissed because her work permit had expired (although, if she had agreed to return to work in her old laboratory, it would have extended it).

The Employment Tribunal ruled in the employer's favour. Her refusal to return to work was not because of her disability but because her grievance meant she was unwilling to do so.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) disagreed. The law says that there is disability discrimination if an employer treats an employee unfavourably because of ‘something arising in consequence of disability’. The EAT said her refusal to return to work was because of a chain of linked events, including the breakdown of relations between her and her colleagues, all of which arose in consequence of her disability. Her dismissal was therefore disability discrimination and unfair.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers should consider whether a proposed dismissal is the culmination of a chain of linked events starting with an employee's disability because, if it is, the dismissal may amount to disability discrimination

Case ref: Sheikholeslami v The University of Edinburgh [2018] UKEAT 0014_17_0510

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