When employees disclose that they are suffering from a disability, it is an important moment that should always put employers on their mettle. The point was powerfully made by the case of a business development manager who was dismissed within days of his employer learning that he had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
After the man launched proceedings, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that his dismissal was significantly influenced by the employer’s knowledge of his disability. He had been subjected to two acts of direct disability discrimination: his dismissal and the refusal of two of the employer’s founding directors to acknowledge his ill health. The employer’s contention that he had been dismissed solely for the non-discriminatory reason of poor performance was rejected.
The ET found that all three of the employer’s directors, who worked closely together, were aware of his condition prior to his dismissal. The employer had moved virtually directly from learning of his disability to terminating his employment. When he complained about his dismissal, two of the directors colluded in maintaining their assertions that they had no advance knowledge of his ill health.
The ET also found that, in seeking to embellish the employer’s dissatisfaction with the man’s performance and bolster its case, one of the directors had altered an email so as to give the impression that a client had specifically named him as the person responsible for a serious overcharging error.
Anyone aware of his diagnosis would have known that type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that, unless controlled by medication, can have a significant effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The man testified that the condition caused tiredness and digestive complications that made it difficult for him to perform his extensive role in entertaining clients.
In dismissing the employer’s challenge to those findings, the Employment Appeal Tribunal noted that the ET had rejected several other complaints put forward by the man in what was a long and hard-fought case. It could find nothing perverse or unfair in the ET’s careful and balanced conclusions. If not agreed, the amount of the man’s compensation would be decided at a further hearing.