The Employment Appeals Tribunal in the case of Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey held that the CC had directly discriminated again a non-disabled job applicant who was rejected because the CC perceived that she had a condition which could potentially become a disability in the future.
Discrimination by perception is a term used when an employer wrongly assumes an employee qualifies as disabled and discriminates against them as a result, despite the fact that they do not have a disability under the Act.
In this recent and extremely significant case, the Claimant was a serving police officer who applied from one location of the force to another. Norfolk Constabulary rejected her transfer application on the basis that her hearing fell below the required standard.
They failed to carry out the usual function test and they perceived that her hearing might deteriorate in the future, therefore leaving her with restricted duties.
What Was The Final Ruling?
The original Employment Tribunal found that this amounted to direct disability discrimination and the Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld the original decision.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal commented that ‘there would be a gap in the protection offered by equality law if an employer, wrongly perceiving that an employee’s impairment might well progress to the point where it affected his work substantially, could dismiss him in advance to avoid any duty to make allowances or adjustments’.
We believe this is an incredibly important ruling which all employers must take note of in order to prevent discrimination claims being brought against them.
This is a key case for employers to be aware of, as the decision ensures that employees with conditions which may worsen in the future are protected from discrimination on account of this possibility. If you are an SME business owner and require advice on this or any other employment law topic, please message us directly.