Discrimination arising from disability

The Court of Appeal has held that even if an employer is unaware that a disability has caused misconduct, dismissal can amount to unfavourable treatment under s15 Equality Act 2010. In order to establish whether discrimination arising from disability has occurred, two limbs need to be satisfied under s.15 (1) Equality Act 2010;

  1. A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability.
  2. A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

City of York Council v Grosset involved a teacher who showed underage children a film for over 18s whilst at school. He was suspended and dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Grosset has Cystic Fibrosis and due to an increase in workload as a consequence of a new head teacher, he suffered from stress which worsened his condition. The panel who dismissed Mr Grosset rejected that his action was a brief lapse in judgment, due to stress.

The Employment Tribunal held that although the dismissal was not unfair, Mr Grosset was a victim of discrimination arising from disability. Knowledge is not required regarding whether unacceptable behaviour is a result of disability. Knowledge is only relevant to whether the employer knows that the employee is disabled.

The Council appealed this decision, which the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed. The Court found that Mr Grosset had been dismissed because he had showed the film. The Court then examined whether causation existed between Mr Grosset showing the film, and his Cystic Fibrosis. They found that there was a causal link.

The case illustrates the difficulties for an employer facing a section 15 disability discrimination claim, over and above those applying to the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Employers can be liable under s.15 EA, even where they have reviewed evidence and reasonably determined that there is no causal link between an employee’s improper behaviour and their disability. In light of this, it may be wise for employers to obtain medical evidence regarding whether the employee’s behaviour could be due to their disability, when disciplining a disabled employee. If the employer takes all of the reasonable steps possible to determine whether a causal link exists, it decreases the odds of taking action that would breach s15 EA. Employers may wish to trust in employees that their behaviour was a consequence of their disability, or they could be at risk of being claimed against successfully. 


If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or an Employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Chris Cook on 01727 798089.

Read SA Law's latest employment views & insights
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
How UK businesses should prepare for incoming IR35 rules

With less than 12 months until the IR35 changes come into force, Chris Cook outlines how businesses in the UK can prepare to avoid falling foul of the…

Photo of a red arrow SA Law
Views & Insights
Digital Disruption: How to think disruptively for greater business success

SA Law’s recent event looked at a topic on many people’s minds: What is ‘digital disruption’, and should I be applying it to my organisation?

SA Law Red Mug Coffee
Views & Insights
Building the wellbeing workplace: how to ensure your employees are healthy and happy

SA Law’s recent HR forum discussed how wellbeing in the workplace has become critical strategy for employers.

GDPR Numbers Image SA Law
Views & Insights
GDPR one year on

Subject access requests and complaints have been commonplace since the GDPR came into effect. Find out more about the trends and traps.

Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Proposed changes to NDA rules 'not enough to end workplace harassment'

Partner Keely Rushmore comments in People Management about the government's announcement.

Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Smart Exits: Protected Conversations and Termination Payments

Chris Cook addresses the most appropriate ways of reaching a settlement when managing an employee's exit from a company.

Stained glass window
Views & Insights
I'm facing redundancy, what should I do?

A redundancy process is undoubtedly an unpleasant thing to go through, understanding your rights can make things significantly easier.

Join our mailing list

Want our latest views & insight along with exclusive event invitations and much more sent directly to you?

© SA LAW 2019

Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.