How Should a Company Behave When Disciplining an Employee With a Disability?
A recent case from the Court of Appeal has highlighted the care that employers need to take when conducting disciplinary proceedings against employees with disabilities.
In City of York Council v Grosset, a teacher with cystic fibrosis had shown an 18-rated horror film to a class of 15-year-olds and had been dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Grosset argued that he had been under a great deal of stress at work, which had made his cystic fibrosis worse. He brought a claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
The court found that his disability had caused his misconduct and although the school’s decision to dismiss him was intended to protect the children he was responsible for, it was found that it was not proportionate means of achieving that aim, and a written warning would have been sufficient.
It was therefore decided that his dismissal amounted to disability discrimination and he was awarded compensation of £650,000.
Many employers will be surprised at the decision and keen to protect themselves from facing similar claims in the future.
The main point to note is the importance of understanding not only whether or not an employee has a disability, but also what the consequences of that disability are.
It is therefore crucial that medical evidence is obtained to ensure that the effect of the disability is known, whether any reasonable adjustments could be required and if disciplinary action including dismissal can be justified.
In addition, having a comprehensive Equality Policy can help demonstrate that the business takes their legal and moral obligations of equality seriously, which can assist with the defence of claims such as these.