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Case Law Update: Employer’s knowledge of employee’s disabilityBack

The Court of Appeal has confirmed the importance of knowledge in a disability discrimination case.

To be liable for disability discrimination a Claimant would have to show not only (a) that they are disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 (which has its own specific definition), but also (b) that the Respondent employer knew or ought to have known (i.e. have constructive knowledge) of the disability.

In assessing this question a previous case Gallop v Newport City Council confirmed that an employer cannot simply ‘rubber-stamp’ an unreasoned occupational health assessment of disability and rely upon that to argue it did not know of the disability.

In a case last week Donelien v Liberata UK Ltd the Court of Appeal found that an employer, on the facts before it, should not have been treated as knowing that an employee was disabled when the medical evidence wrongly regarded that employee as not disabled.

In Donelien the Tribunal held as a finding that the Claimant was, in fact, disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act, but that the employer was not liable because they did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, of the disability. In Donelien the employer had taken reasonable steps to assess the employee’s condition and had not simply ‘rubber-stamped’ the occupational health report, as had happened in Gallop.  It relied upon an occupational health report stating the employee was not disabled, but also took into account return to work meetings and letters from the employee’s GP in the assessment.

The case is therefore good news for employers who are defending disability claims where the employer did not know and could not reasonably be expected to know the employee’s condition was serious enough to constitute a disability. It confirms that an employer who has taken reasonable steps to assess the employee’s condition and concluded that the employee was not disabled should not be liable, even if a later Judge at a Tribunal takes a different view.

Motor Industry Legal Services

Motor Industry Legal Services (MILS Solicitors) provides fully comprehensive legal advice and representation to UK motor retailers for one annual fee. It is the only law firm in the UK which specialises in motor law and motor trade law. MILS currently advises over 1,000 individual businesses within the sector as well as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and its members.

Posted by Sue Robinson on 16/02/2018