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Employment Law Case Update: City of York Council v Grosset

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In City of York Council v Grosset the EAT upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision that an employer who had dismissed a disabled employee, not knowing that the misconduct arose from the disability, had committed of an act of discrimination arising from disability.

Mr Grosset was a teacher and Head of English at a school. He also suffers from cystic fibrosis and as a consequence of this is required to spend up to three hours a day carrying out physical exercise to clear his lungs. The school in which Mr Grosset worked, operated by the City of York Council, underwent a change in head teacher. As a result, Mr Grosset’s workload increased and caused him to suffer from stress, exacerbating his condition.

Mr Grosset took two lessons of 15 and 16 year olds in which he showed an 18 rated film ‘Halloween’. Shortly after this, as a result of the increased workload, Mr Grosset was signed off with stress.  Once the school found out about the film, they commenced disciplinary proceedings and suspended Mr Grosset. He was later dismissed for gross misconduct. The school refused to accept Mr Grosset’s reasoning that showing the film had been an error of judgment caused by his stress and health conditions.

Mr Grosset brought claims in the ET for unfair dismissal and various claims under the Equality Act 2010. The ET concluded that the film had been shown whilst Mr Grosset was suffering with an impaired mental state because of stress that arose from his disability. It therefore stated that his dismissal amounted to discrimination arising from disability. The ET however decided the medical evidence, available at the time of the tribunal, showed a link between the misconduct and the disability. However this evidence was not available at the time of dismissal and therefore, applying the band of reasonable responses test, the dismissal was not unfair in the circumstances. The council then appealed to the EAT. The appeal centred on what was known at the time of the dismissal.

The EAT concluded, using the updated medical evidence, that the misconduct arose in consequence of Mr Grosset’s disability and the ET had not made an error when deciding this also. The EAT therefore dismissed the appeal. This case is of interest to employers as it shows that an employer could be guilty of discrimination arising from disability even when an employer has reasonably concluded that something for which they want to dismiss a disabled employee is not caused by their disability.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 2nd February 2017.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.

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