Monday, December 21, 2009

Legal Step Forward on Disability Rights

In the latest in an ongoing series of Janine's handy legal news for workers, I am pleased to report that the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the Disability Discrimination Act protects not just workers who are themselves disabled, but who are "associated with" someone else with a disability.

The delicious irony in this particular case, the employer concerned was a firm of solicitors, who appeared to think they should not be excessively punished for mistreating an employee with a disabled kid.

Mrs Coleman, a legal secretary, gave birth in 2002 to a disabled son who required specialist care. She claimed that her employer refused to allow her to return to her previous job when she came back from maternity leave; refused to allow her to work flexibly; and subjected her to abusive and insulting comments about her child.

Among other things, Mrs Coleman claimed disability discrimination under the DDA. Her employer responded that she could not bring a claim under the Act because it only covered disabled people and she was not herself disabled. But after various to-ings and fro-ings, the EAT has ruled in Mrs Coleman's favour. Good on yer, Mrs C.

The only catch is that this decision applies only to 'associative discrimination' in respect of disability harassment claims and direct disability discrimination, not to disability-related or failure to make reasonable adjustment claims.

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