Disability Discrimination – Employers Don’t Have to Shut Their Eyes to Reality

Our Chartered Legal Executive, Lucy Watson, comments “Discriminating against an employee due to their disability is unlawful, however it does not mean that an employer has to ignore health difficulties when deciding if an employee is fit enough for a particular role. This has been reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal in this latest case of a chemical engineer whose medical problems resulted in him being overlooked for an overseas posting.”

Outline of Case

The man had double below-knee amputations and suffered from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, ischaemic heart disease and morbid obesity. At a client’s request, his employer initially selected him to work on a project in the Middle East. However, following a medical assessment, that decision was reversed on the basis that his deployment to a remote location would give rise to a high risk of medical complications. The employer’s director of operations acknowledged that both he and its client would be disappointed, but said that the duty of care owed to him as an individual came first.

His complaints of direct and indirect disability discrimination, and a failure to make reasonable adjustments in order to cater for his health problems, were rejected by an Employment Tribunal (ET) and that decision was subsequently confirmed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

What happened next?

In dismissing his challenge to that outcome, the Court noted that an employee’s health is not always entirely irrelevant to their ability to do a particular job. The reality was that a hypothetical comparator at similar medical risk would have been treated in exactly the same way even if they did not share the man’s particular disability.

If you have a Disability Discrimination claim that you would like to discuss with our Employment team, contact Tayntons on 01452 222340 to book an initial 45 minute consultation for £75.00 plus VAT (£95.00).

Owen v Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited & Anr. Case Number: A2/2018/0867


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