Unfavourable Treatment and Mistaken Belief
Monday 1st April 2019
In iForce Ltd v Wood the EAT considered if a warning issued to the Claimant amounted to unfavourable treatment arising in consequence of disability.
The Equality Act 2010 provides that it is unlawful to unjustifiably treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something arising from, or in consequence of, that disabled person’s disability.
Ms Wood was a packer working for the Respondent, a logistics company. The company were aware of her disability, osteoarthritis, which was exacerbated by exposure to damp and cold. The company changed its working practices from each packer working a fixed bench to rotating around various benches, some of which were situated by loading doors. Ms Wood refused to do so as she believed working closer to the loading doors would expose her to colder, damper conditions which would exacerbate her osteoarthritis. The company investigated the temperature and humidity of the work benches and found no material difference in each. Ms Wood was eventually issued with a written warning.
Ms Wood brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal stating that the warning she received amounted to discrimination because of something arising in consequences of her disability. The first instance Tribunal agreed and found in her favour.
Decision and comment
The EAT however allowed the company’s appeal. It held that the unfavourable treatment arose not from Ms Wood’s disability but from her mistaken belief that the working benches closer to the loading doors were colder and more damp. The company had not therefore treated Ms Wood unfavourably because of her disability.
The EAT affirmed that the test as to whether unfavourable treatment had arisen due to a Claimant disability is an objective one requiring a connection between the treatment and disability.