Employer’s state of knowledge decisive in disability claim

In a case which underlined that the state of an employer’s knowledge is often the decisive factor in cases brought under the Equality Act 2010, a worker who was left suffering from depression and double vision following a violent assault has failed in a disability discrimination claim Morgan v Armadillo Managed Services Limited.

Neil Morgan was on a business trip abroad when he was seriously injured during the attack, which had nothing to do with his employment by Armadillo Managed Services Limited, an information technology company. He required hospital treatment and was off work for an extended period.

Whilst he was away, his employer alleged that he had been drinking heavily during the business trip and had behaved inappropriately in front of a client. His rate of sick pay was reduced and he was refused payment of certain commissions. He later resigned and launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings.

In dismissing Mr Morgan’s discrimination claim, the ET noted that Section 13(1) of the Act requires that the employer has to have actual or constructive knowledge of an employee’s disability in order for a claim to succeed.

The ET found on the evidence that his employer could not be criticised for being unaware at the relevant time that Mr Morgan was suffering from double vision and reactive depression due to the assault.

Rejecting Mr Morgan’s challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ET’s finding that Armadillo neither knew, nor ought to have known, that he was disabled. The ET had rationally concluded on the evidence that he had been refused commission because he was not working, not because he was disabled.

It would have been ‘expecting too much’ to require the employer to itself gather expert medical reports on Mr Morgan’s condition and his lawyers had rightly conceded that a lack of actual or constructive knowledge on Armadillo’s part would be fatal to his claim.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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