News and Events

Definition of Disability

  • Posted

Was it right to dismiss a disability discrimination claim on the ground that a manifestation of the Claimant's disorder was the excluded condition of a tendency to steal?

Yes, held the EAT in Wood v Durham County Council.

One day Mr Wood went to Boots the Chemist and left without paying for items he had placed in a bag. This ultimately led to his dismissal by the Council. In a disability discrimination claim, Mr Wood asserted he had post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative amnesia. He maintained that the accusation of shoplifting and subsequent issue of a fixed penalty notice was something arising from his disability.

At the tribunal hearing it was conceded by the Council that Mr Wood had the mental impairment of PTSD and, on the face of it, was therefore disabled. However, the Council relied on Regulation 4(1)(b) of the Equality Act (Disability) Regulations 2010 where a tendency to steal is an excluded condition. The tribunal concluded that since the effective cause of the Claimant's dismissal (which was the discriminatory treatment complained of) was this excluded condition, the claim must fail.

On appeal the EAT considered that the tribunal had directed itself properly on the authorities and had not erred in concluding, on the evidence, that a manifestation of the Claimant's post-traumatic stress disorder and disassociate amnesia was a tendency to steal within the meaning of Regulation 4(1)(b), which meant the appeal could not succeed.

Thanks to Dr John McMullen of Wrigleys Solicitors LLP for preparing this case summary.