The EAT has upheld an employment tribunal’s decision that an employee’s conduct when he came into conflict with colleagues was not something arising in consequence of his disabilities for the purposes of a discrimination arising from disability claim under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010.
Under section 15(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010), “discrimination arising from disability” occurs where both:
- A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability.
- A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (the objective justification defence).
The EHRC Employment Statutory Code of Practice (EHRC Code) states that:
“the consequences of a disability include anything which is the result, effect or outcome of a disabled person’s disability. The consequences will be varied, and will depend on the individual effect upon a disabled person of their disability. Some consequences may be obvious, such as an inability to walk unaided or inability to use certain work equipment. Others may not be obvious, for example, having to follow a restricted diet.” (Paragraph 5.9.)
In this case the claimant had various conditions including dyslexia, some symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome and hearing loss, which were acknowledged to cause him some difficulties with his interactions in the workplace. It was accepted that these conditions amounted to disabilities within the meaning of the EqA 2010. Medical evidence indicated that, in situations of stress or anxiety, he would raise his voice and adopt mannerisms suggestive of aggression, with inappropriate speech and tone.
There were some incidents between the claimant and one of his senior colleagues, described by the tribunal as a “meltdown”. The employee was disciplined for a performance issue. He brought a grievance, and then two tribunal claims, in which he asserted that he had been subjected to unfavourable treatment because of something arising in consequence of his disabilities.
The Tribunal had to decide whether the claimant’s conduct at work arose from a disability. The tribunal found that while the disability could cause the claimant to behave in a manner described as a “meltdown”, it decided with sufficient reasoning that he has behaved as he did because he had a short temper and resented being told what to do.
An employment tribunal dismissed his claims.
On appeal, the EAT held that although the tribunal’s decision was structured and drafted in an unorthodox manner, there was no error of law or principle in its findings. The tribunal had noted the disabilities and made findings about their extent and effect.
Case: High Court Judgment Template (publishing.service.gov.uk)