An employer's decision to dismiss a disabled employee for
gross misconduct which was seemingly unrelated to the disability
amounted to discrimination arising from disability.
Mr Grosset was Head of English at a school operated by the City
of York Council. He suffered with cystic fibrosis, which the
Council agreed amounted to a disability. As a result of his
condition, Mr Grosset had to spend up to 3 hours a day doing
gruelling physical exercise to clear his lungs.
A new Head Teacher was appointed who brought in various new
initiatives at the school, leading to an increase in Mr
Grosset's workload. Given the time he had to spend exercising,
the additional workload proved very stressful to Mr Grosset, and
the stress in turn exacerbated his cystic fibrosis.
During this period, Mr Grosset showed 'Halloween', a
violent horror film with a certificate of 18, to a group of
vulnerable 15 and 16 year olds. The Council suspended Mr Grosset
pending an investigation into potential gross misconduct. When
interviewed, Mr Grosset agreed that he had made an error of
judgment but explained that he had been under significant stress,
contributed to by his cystic fibrosis. The medical evidence
available to the Council at the time did not suggest any link
between Mr Grosset's disability and his decision to show the
film. As a result, the Council took the decision to dismiss Mr
Mr Grosset brought claims in the Employment Tribunal against the
Council, including the allegation that his dismissal amounted to
discrimination arising from his disability.
Medical evidence produced during the course of proceedings
suggested that there may be a medical link between Mr Grosset's
behaviour and his disability. On that basis, the Employment
Tribunal and the EAT found that the dismissal amounted to
discrimination arising from disability. By contrast with the law on
reasonable adjustments, it was held that discrimination of this
nature only requires that the employer knows of the employee's
disability – it is not necessary for the employer to have
knowledge of the specific consequences of the disability.
Therefore, although it was reasonable for the Council to determine
that the misconduct was not connected to Mr Grosset's
disability given the evidence it had at the time, the later
evidence can still be relied on to show that the dismissal was
discriminatory and was not objectively justified.
This is a rather scary case for employers, as the Council's
decision to dismiss Mr Grosset on the basis of the information it
had at the time seems reasonable at first glance (and indeed, Mr
Grosset's unfair dismissal claim failed on that basis). The
Council is seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal; in
the meantime, the best thing for employers to do in such a
situation is to seek independent medical evidence before making a
decision as to a disciplinary sanction.
City of York Council v Grosset UKEAT/00151/16
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Everyone has sympathy for employees who are genuinely unwell. When advising employers about employees suffering from stress, various medical conditions and resultant absence, it is these words that come up again and again.
In our article published in HR Zone, we consider the introduction of the new rules on regulatory references which come into force on 7 March 2017 and the practical steps that employers must take to comply...
Most of us know the difference between being employed and being self-employed (or at least we think we do). And in everyday laymen's terms, the difference is relatively straightforward and obvious – if you are employed, you work for someone else and, if you are self-employed, you ‘work for yourself'.
This coming year looks to be another busy one with more significant employment law changes coming into force and we have highlighted some of the key changes, which range from the introduction of gender pay...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).