Legal Updates

Employment – Disability Discrimination – Reasonable Adjustments

In the case of Smith Detection Watford Ltd v Michael Berriman (2005), Smith Detection Watford Ltd (“SDW”) appealed against a decision by the Employment Tribunal (the “ET”) that it had discriminated against Mr Berriman, their former employee, on the basis of his disability. In 1998, Mr Berriman began working for SDW as an analytical chemist and a production support engineer. In September 1998, Mr Berriman began to suffer from depression.

Mr Berriman saw his GP on 25 October 2001 who diagnosed him with stress and depression. On 27 October 2001, Mr Berriman gave a medical certificate to his employers and blamed the stress on the unreasonable working conditions and bullying of him. In August 2002, Mr Berriman’s GP wrote to SDW and said that Mr Berriman’s condition would improve if his work related issues were addressed. By this time Mr Berriman had been on sick leave for 17 months. On 18 March 2003, SDW received a report from its Occupational Health Physician who concluded that Mr Berriman’s relationship with SDW was extremely strained and that it was unlikely that he could return to work within the foreseeable future. SDW decided to terminate Mr Berriman’s employment on 30 April 2003.

Mr Berriman brought a claim against SDW on the grounds that they had discriminated against him because of his disability.

The ET held that Mr Berriman was indeed disabled and discriminated against by reason of his disability. SDW was found to have failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Berriman and also to have failed to justify Mr Berriman’s less favourable treatment.

SDW appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (the “EAT”) on the basis that the ET failed to identify, in relation to a failure to make reasonable adjustments, the arrangements made by the employer, the relevant physical feature of the premises occupied by the employer, the identity of non-disabled comparators and the nature and extent of the substantial disadvantage suffered by Mr Berriman.

The EAT held that:

▪     the ET erred by concluding that SDW was bound to make adjustments simply because Mr Berriman was disabled;

▪     the ET omitted to identify arrangements made by the employer or the physical feature of the premises which placed Mr Berriman at a substantial disadvantage;

▪     the appeal would be allowed and findings in Mr Berriman’s favour would be set aside.

Comment: Please contact us for more information on disability discrimination.

Email: enquiries@rtcooperssolicitors.com

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© RT COOPERS, 2005. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

 

 

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