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Disability Discrimination

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Is a tribunal entitled to reject a discrimination claim about a dismissal for something arising from disability (s15 Equality Act), when the employer only knew about the disability after dismissal?

Yes, held the EAT in Stott v Ralli Ltd.

The Claimant was a paralegal in a firm of solicitors, dismissed in her probationary period for poor performance. She then raised a grievance, referring to disability, so making the Respondent aware of it. The grievance was rejected, as was a grievance appeal. The Claimant, representing herself, brought a claim alleging that her dismissal was discriminatory, but without complaining about the grievance and appeal outcomes. The claim was clarified through several preliminary hearings and at the final hearing. The tribunal held that the Respondent did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to have known, about disability when dismissing.

The EAT held that, on the facts, the case was purely about the Claimant's dismissal, and not what happened afterwards. It was not wrong for this tribunal to have only considered if the dismissal was discriminatory, as the grievance and appeal were not part of the case before it. Knowledge or constructive knowledge of disability acquired after the dismissal could not assist the claimant. Complaints about a discriminatory dismissal and a discriminatory appeal could be different matters, unlike in unfair dismissal claims, where the whole process is part of the question of fairness. The EAT also made observations about the interaction between defences to s15 and s19 (indirect discrimination) Equality Act claims.

Thanks to Ed McFarlane of Worknest LAW for preparing this case summary.