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Associative Discrimination

17 Jul 2008, 11:06 by Joseph Neville

Labels: barrister, disability-discrimination, discrimination, employee, employment, european-court-of-justice

The European Court of Justice has now handed down its judgment in the employment law case of Coleman v Attridge Law. This is where a non-disabled employee claimed disability discrimination based on being harassed due to her having a disabled son.

The court has confirmed that this ‘associative' discrimination is prohibited by the Equal Treatment directive. This applies for all forms of discrimination.

When a court decides on whether or not the decision can have effect under the UK's Disability Discrimination Act, or when the government amends the Act, this will be of considerable advantage to employees needing flexibility and time off work to care for disabled dependants.

Written by Joseph Neville, Barrister at New Walk Chambers, specialising in Employment Law.

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Discrimination Law London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm

03 Jul 2008, 13:36 by Joseph Neville

Labels: disability, discrimination, employees, employment-law, employment-tribunal, legal-profession

The House of Lords has published an important decision on disability discrimination law, Lewisham v Malcolm [2008] UKHL 43, that turns much previous authority on its head. The particular case concerned housing: Malcolm was a secure tenant of the local authority, but he left his flat and subletted it. This had the legal effect of cancelling his security of tenure and converting his tenancy to a contractual one. The local authority served notice and brought a possession claim. Under normal circumstances, since the subletting was a breach of the tenancy, the local authority would be successful.

Malcolm's defence was that he had breached his tenancy agreement as a result of his schizophrenia, and that he was disabled within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Section 22(3)(c) of the 1995 Act provides that evicting a person from housing is unlawful if in doing so the landlord discriminates. Section 24 the provides that discrimination will exist if "(a) for a reason which relates to the disabled person's disability, [the landlord] treats him less favourably than he treats or would treat others to whom that reason does not or would not apply; and (b) [the landlord] cannot show that the treatment is justified."

This statutory wording has been the subject of much dispute over the years - if Malcolm's case is right then the council cannot evict him for unlawfully subletting his flat. Nor could they (or any other landlord) evict a tenant for falling into arrears if this was due to a disability.

The House of Lords addressed the following issues:

  • Does the reason for the eviction "relate" to the tenant's disability?

To determine this question the Lords followed the usual practice of looking for the non-disabled comparator. In this case, the correct comparator was a person without a disability who had nonetheless sublet the flat and moved out. Since the local authority would have treated this person in exactly the same way, it could not be said to be treating Malcolm "less favourably" such as to give rise to a claim of disability discrimination.

  • Is it relevant whether the landlord knew of the tenant's disability?

The Lords' view was robust- the local authority must have knowledge (or imputed knowledge) of the disability before it can be said to have discriminated. This ruling resolves a considerable a number of conflicting authorities.

This is an important judgment, as it relates not only to housing, but to employment law, education, transport and goods and services.

Written by Joseph Neville, Barrister at New Walk Chambers specialising in Employment Law.

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Employment Tribunal Claims

08 May 2008, 10:31 by Robert Rees

Labels: direct-access, discrimination, employment, public-access, tribunal, unfair-dismissal, unfair-terms

Chambers' employment barristers act and advise in all employment tribunal matters in Leicester, Nottingham, Birmingham and further afield including disability discrimination, holiday pay, breach of contract and unfair dismissal cases.

 Many employment tribunal claims concern constructive dismissal claims where an employee can resign because of an employers serious breach of contract towards him. In legal parlance he can accept the employer's repudiation of the contract. For this, the employee can rely upon the employer's breach the implied term in the contract of mutual trust and confidence. However employers should be alert to a defence they may have if the employee has first broken the employment contract. If so, the employee is not entitled to claim unfair constructive dismissal by claiming a repudiation by the employer because he has first destroyed the employment relationship. This happened in the recently reported case of RDF Media Group Plc V Clements [2008] IRLR 207 in fact a High Court case, which of course New Walk Chambers employment barrister cover as well.

 There Mr Clements had agreed a 3 - year non-competitive agreement with his employers RDF Media Group which he wished to get out of. The agreement provided that the 3 year period would be reduced to 2 years if the employers unlawfully dismissed him. Clements alleged that the employers had breached the implied term of trust and confidence by inter alia going to the the press with unflattering remarks (that Mr Clements was a "phenomenal egomaniac" and other information. The High Court held that the employer had indeed overstepped the mark by going to the press [other comments made internally that Mr Clements was "a bit dim" did not breach the term] and these were in breach of contract as being a serious attack on his character. However Mr Clements could not rely on the employer's breaches because he himself had been earlier in breach of contract by contacting a competitor of the employer and disclosing confidential information: Mr Clements himself had been disloyal and in breach of his own duty of fidelity.

The result was that Mr Clements had not been unlawfully dismissed by the employer and thus was bound by the full 3 year period of his non-competition agreement with the employer.

Wait for the new direct public access employment barrister's website which will be out soon. New Walk Chambers employment barristers as well as offering their services for employment tribunal claims can now in certain cases offer their services direct to the public.

This applies to employment tribunal claims for both Claimants and Respondents in all areas of employment law.

Written by Robert Rees, Barrister at New Walk Chambers, specialising in Employment Law.

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