Teacher awarded over £600,000 in compensation after being dismissed for showing Halloween to 15 year old students

The Court of Appeal has held that an employee will be successful in a claim under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 (discrimination arising from disability) if they can show can show a causal connection between unfavourable treatment, i.e. the dismissal, and a disability.

In the case of City of York Council v Grosset Mr Grosset, a Teacher, suffered from cystic fibrosis; stress from an increased workload exacerbated his condition. During a period of increased work load he showed the 18-rated film, Halloween, to a class of 15 year old students without consent from their parents or the school. The School dismissed him for gross misconduct.  However, while he accepted that showing the film was inappropriate he maintained it was an error of judgment arising from stress which was linked to his disability. The school was unaware, at the time they dismissed  Mr Grosset, that his misconduct was linked to his disability.

The Court rejected the claim for unfair dismissal but upheld the claim for discrimination arising from a disability.  The test for unfair dismissal relates to a band of reasonable responses with regards to action taken by the employer, whereas in a claim for discrimination arising from disability the causal link is objective and does not depend on the employer’s knowledge. The fact that the school was unaware of the connection between Mr Gosset’s misconduct and his disability was irrelevant and the claim succeeded as he was able to prove a link between the two.

The Court of Appeal held that the Tribunal was correct in making its own assessment that the dismissal amounted to unfavourable treatment arising from a disability. Further, the Tribunal was right to conclude that if reasonable adjustments had been made, by reducing work pressures, the Claimant would not have been subjected to the same stress levels and the incident would have been less likely to occur.

If you have any questions relating to this article or require any advice, please contact Emelie Vardon, Trainee Solicitor in the Employment team, on 0191 226 7874 or at emelie.vardon@sintons.co.uk.

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