Case law: Dismissing employee with disabled daughter was associative disability discrimination

Monday 14th September 2015

Employers considering dismissing an employee should ensure they do not dismiss the employee because they are 'associated' with a person with a 'protected characteristic' such as disability, race or age - or risk an associative discrimination claim.

 

An employee with a good employment record told his employer that his wife was starting her own business, and he would have to spend more time in the future caring for their daughter, who had cystic fibrosis.

 

He was dismissed the day before he would have become entitled to claim compensation for unfair dismissal. The grounds for dismissal included that 'his heart wasn't in the business', and that his main customer was not happy with him. However, he suspected the real reason was because of his disabled daughter.

 

Under UK law, it is discrimination if an employer treats someone less favourably because of a 'protected characteristic' (such as disability) than they would treat someone else in the circumstances. There is discrimination whether the employee is disabled in their own right; or if the discrimination is because they are 'associated' with a disabled person (ie 'associative' discrimination).

 

The employee claimed associative discrimination on the basis that he was dismissed because his daughter was disabled.

 

In the absence of evidence from the employer to support the reasons given for the dismissal – and especially given the timing - the Employment Tribunal found there had been associative discrimination.

 

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers considering dismissing an employee should ensure they are not doing so because the employee is 'associated' with a person with a 'protected characteristic' such as disability (or race, age, etc) - or risk an associative discrimination claim

Case law: Truman v Bibby Distribution Ltd ET/2404176/2014

 

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Author: Lisa Clark

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