If you know, you know……
When it comes to disability discrimination, there’s a pretty important case – Stott vs Ralli Limited.
The employee in question put in a claim, saying she’d been discriminated against because of her disability; she had mental health issues and dyslexia.
But here’s the thing: her employer didn’t know that. She’d never raised it, and only brought it up in a grievance AFTER she’d been dismissed, a fact that she agreed with, albeit asserting that “somehow they should have known”.
So, no discrimination, no victory for Stott, and no compensation doled out.
A happy ending. But it doesn’t always happen, highlighting the need to do things the right way if you don’t want to lose at tribunal:
A Club we work with wanted to dismiss an employee for refusing to come back to work after lockdown.
They’d worked for them for less than two years, so on the surface it should have been fairly straightforward.
We asked the client several times if they knew of any protected characteristics that would complicate things. They said they didn’t, and then the Early Conciliation claim arrived.
Turns out they had been verbally told about anxiety by the employee at a work event, which was later backed up by a WhatsApp message.
We spoke to the manager again, who said that while the conversation had taken place, it was at the weekend and at a social event, so it didn’t count as them “officially” knowing.
An incorrect, erroneous and expensive mistake.
Another client also wanted to let a staff member go, and we kept asking and asking about mental health issues (after our experience above), and whether they had EVER heard anything.
(They’d worked there for five years, so it was a little more complicated, but if we’ve got all the information, you’d be amazed at what we can do!)
After pressing them, they admitted that the employee’s partner had told them – again at a social event – that the employee suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.
Sure, the client wasn’t very happy that this information “counted” as them knowing.
But they were pretty happy that it meant we could secure a clean dismissal with no potential comeback.
Basically, if you know, then you know.
It doesn’t matter if you found out during work time, at the weekend, verbally, in writing, if they told the house manager and not you, and so on and so forth.
All of it counts as the organisation knowing about the disability, so if you try to pretend you didn’t know, you will lose at tribunal.
You can only get the correct advice to deal with staff issues if you make full disclosure. If not, you might as well “save” your time and money (but then lose it at tribunal).