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Associative Discrimination

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Thanks to Vanessa James of SA Law for preparing this case summary

Does an employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments extend to an employee associated with a disabled person?

No, held the Court of Appeal, upholding the EAT's decision in the case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence.

The Appellant was a civilian employee of the British armed forces, based in Germany. The Appellant herself was not disabled, but she had a daughter with Down's syndrome. The Appellant requested a compassionate transfer to the UK to enable her daughter to access specialist education and training facilities. Her request was refused. The Appellant brought a claim alleging the refusal amounted to a breach of the obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Previous caselaw (Coleman v Attridge Law) had held that claims of associative discrimination can apply to direct discrimination claims. However in Hainsworth, the Court of Appeal held that the wording of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 5 of the Equal Treatment Framework Directive only applies to reasonable adjustments for the assistance of disabled employees or prospective employees, and any attempt to stretch this to cover a disabled person associated with an employee is "doomed to failure".