A great many employers would agree that thinking differently is a positive advantage to those with Asperger’s syndrome and that they have much of value to contribute to the workplace. However, as one case showed, the condition may nevertheless be classified as a disability in employment law terms.
After a man with a longstanding diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome lodged an Employment Tribunal (ET) complaint against his telecommunications company employer, the question of whether he was disabled, within the meaning of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010, was considered as a preliminary issue.
Ruling on the matter, the ET noted that the man’s social interaction skills are affected by his condition. He has particular difficulty when meeting new people and his blunt and direct manner of speech can be misinterpreted as rudeness. His thinking, logic and decision-making skills are also affected and can make him appear stubborn, bringing him into conflict with others.
He further suffers anxiety and sleeplessness and can be intolerant to some sensory experiences, including certain noises or bright lights. Overall, the ET was satisfied that his condition has a substantial impact on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The statutory criteria for a finding of disability were therefore met.