Disability Discrimination Update

The EAT in Sullivan v Bury Street Capital Ltd UKEAT/0317/19/BA recently held that an employee who suffered from paranoid delusions was not disabled because although these had a substantial adverse effect, they were not long-term or likely to recur.

The Employment Tribunal rejected the Claimant’s evidence and found that his condition did not have a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, in part on the basis that he was not a credible witness and was believed to be exaggerating his symptoms.

Further, in considering whether the Claimant’s condition was likely to recur for the purposes of determining whether it was a long-term condition for the purposes of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010, the Employment Tribunal was entitled to base its decision on the Claimant’s condition at the relevant time it was alleged he was disabled, i.e. 2013, and not in 2017, the point at which his condition did recur.

The Facts

The Claimant, Mr Sullivan, worked as a sales executive with a small finance company (BSC) and following a relationship with a Ukrainian woman began suffering paranoid delusions that a group of Russian gangsters were out to get him. The Claimant’s delusions began around May 2013 and his employer became aware of these delusions several months later.

As a result of his paranoid delusions, the Claimant had difficulty sleeping which in turn affected his attendance and behaviour at work.

The Claimant’s performance reviews between July 2014 and September 2017 consistently referred to his poor timekeeping and attitude to work and in September 2017 he was dismissed. The Claimant subsequently brought a claim for disability discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal, however, held that the Claimant was not disabled within the meaning of Section 6 of the Equality Act as, whilst it was accepted that he had a mental impairment due to the paranoid delusions, the substantial adverse effect in fact lasted only from around May 2013 to September 2013.

Although the Tribunal heard that the Claimant’s paranoid delusions had recommenced shortly before his dismissal it held that there was no substantial adverse effect in the intervening period.

The Claimant appealed to the EAT on the grounds that it had erred in finding that the substantial adverse effect had not continued throughout the relevant period and that it was not likely to recur.

The EAT dismissed the Claimant’s appeal, finding that the Employment Tribunal had been entitled to rely on the evidence of the Claimant’s colleagues in concluding that his condition did not have a substantial adverse effect on him between September 2013 and April 2017.

As regards the issue of whether the Claimant’s condition was likely to recur, the EAT held that the Employment Tribunal was entitled to assess matters based on the conditions prevailing at the time, i.e. the information available in 2013.

A link to the full judgment can be found in Employment Appeal Tribunal Database

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