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Defining Disability Remains a Quandary

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

In a case which illustrates the continuing quandary of accurately defining the concept of disability, a services manager who claimed that he was discriminated against due to hearing impairment and a painful condition affecting his shoulder has had his hopes of compensation reborn.

The man, who worked for a Citizens Advice Bureau, lodged a disability discrimination claim after he was made redundant. His case was, however, rejected after an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that he had ‘exaggerated’ the problem with his shoulder and that his hearing difficulties were unlikely to last more than 12 months.

Ruling on the man’s challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET was entitled on the evidence to dismiss his claim in respect of hearing loss. However, it could not be shown that the ET had applied the correct test when considering whether his shoulder condition had a substantial adverse effect on his ability to do/carry out normal day-to-day activities and therefore amounted to a disability.

The ET’s reasoning also did not demonstrate that it had properly considered the cumulative effect of both conditions. In those circumstances, the man’s appeal was allowed and his case was sent back to the same ET for reconsideration.

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