01 June 2018
In the case of City of York Council v Grosset, the Court of Appeal (COA) upheld a decision that an employer was liable for discrimination arising from a disability when it dismissed an employee due to misconduct, even though the employer was not aware that the employee’s conduct was due to his disability.
The claimant was Head of English at a school and suffered with cystic fibrosis. Due to a change in workload, he suffered increased levels of stress which negatively affected his condition. During this time, he showed an 18-rated film to a number of students aged 15-16 years old and was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result. The claimant argued that the act was a one-off lapse of judgment due to his stress levels but this was not accepted by the Council.
The Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and now the COA have all found that the claimant was discriminated against for something arising from his disability and medical evidence showed that his conduct was linked to his disability. The Council appealed on the basis that the medical evidence was not available at the time they took their decision so they did not have knowledge of the consequences of his disability. However, it has been held that the requirement for knowledge only relates to whether the employer was aware of the disability (which they were here) and not to whether they were aware of the consequences of the disability.
It is important for employers to remember that when dealing with disciplinaries and employees with disabilities, they should obtain medical evidence as to whether the employee’s actions can be a consequence of their disability. Whilst this would not be a defence it does act as a safety barrier to detect, where possible, any actions by an employee which relate to their disability.