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Union Withdrawing Legal Support - Victimisation?

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[Thanks to Ed McFarlane of Deminos HR for preparing this case summary]

Is it unlawful victimisation for a Trade Union to refuse to fund litigation by a member against her employer for disability discrimination, if that employee also brings (or intends to bring) similar proceedings against the Trade Union? No, says the EAT in University and College Union v Croad (His Honour Judge Pugsley, presiding).

The Claimant brought a claim including disability discrimination against her employer, the University of Wales, and received advice and legal assistance from her Trade Union, the Respondent.

The Claimant then complained about the Union's support for her, which ultimately led to tribunal proceedings against the Union for disability discrimination. The Union had withdrawn support for the Claimant's action against her employer, before she brought proceedings against it, on the grounds of difficulties in acting for the Claimant unless she had agreed to abide by Union advice. The Claim failed. The Claimant's appeal also failed, the EAT noting that there would in any event be a conflict of interest for the Union in representing the Claimant in a case against her employer and itself facing linked proceedings, noting that it is not discrimination if an act is done to protect a party's own legal interests.

The EAT also rejected an argument that the reverse burden of proof applied under the victimisation provisions of the DDA (which was then in force), similar to the approach to the analagous provisions of the RRA.