A Non-Disabled Employee Wouldn’t Have Been Fired for Being Upset at Work, ET Rules in Disability Discrimination Case

In the case of Ms Zalejska v Cameo Consultancy (Recruitment) Limited, the tribunal ruled Ms Zalejska had faced disability discrimination. Following her successful claim, a remedy hearing to determine her compensation will occur on 15 December 2023.

Below, we discuss what happened in Ms Zalejska’s case and outline the employment tribunal’s judgement. We also explore when you could be eligible to claim compensation and the support we can provide. If you’ve experienced disability discrimination, read our guide for more information. Alternatively, contact us now to see if we can help.

The Facts in Ms Zalejska v Cameo Consultancy (Recruitment) Limited

Background – Temporary Role With Principal Medical Limited

Ms Zalejska (“The Claimant”) registered with Cameo Consultancy (Recruitment) Limited (“The Respondent”), which provides agency workers to hirers, on 14 January 2022. On 6 June, Ms Loveland, a senior recruitment consultant for the respondent, offered her a temporary role at Principal Medical Limited. The position paid £11 per hour and involved administration work and updating databases. 

The claimant responded the next day, confirming her interest and began on 13 June, making a good impression. However, on 15 June, whilst being trained, the claimant had difficulty taking card details from a patient over the phone. This led to her colleague taking over and telling the patient that she’d begun “panicking”. 

Ms Zalejska found this interaction unprofessional and the office atmosphere unpleasant after that. Subsequently, she decided to speak with her manager, Ms Nichols, explaining she has anxiety and depression and takes medication. Yet, while discussing her mental health, the claimant became upset and began crying, so she went home at Ms Nichols’ request. The claimant also discussed having her medication reviewed by her GP as it wasn’t having the desired effect.

Ms Zalejska’s Termination

Shortly after the incident on 15 June, Ms Loveland called Ms Zalejska, terminating her assignment. This came after a conversation between Ms Nichols and Ms Loveland, where they concluded the claimant would struggle to deal with the stressful patient-facing role.

In response, on 22 June, Ms Zalejska contacted ACAS for early conciliation concerning the respondent. That month, she also began proceedings against Principal Medical Limited before submitting a claim against the respondent on 12 September. Her claims against the respondent included unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

However, on 12 October, Ms Zalejska’s unfair dismissal claim was struck out as she hadn’t worked for the respondent for two years. Moreover, her claim against Principal Medical Limited was struck out on 23 August 2023 for failing to provide medical history information. Then, the respondent attempted to get the other claim against them struck out. Yet, this was denied because the tribunal held she provided necessary mental health information in an email on 29 August.

The Decision of the Employment Tribunal

Since the disability discrimination claim against the respondent wasn’t struck out, it was heard in September this year. The employment tribunal outlined the issues they had to address, explaining they needed to determine if Ms Zalejska was:

  • Disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA) at the time of the alleged discrimination on 15 June 2022
  • Subjected to less favourable treatment, when the respondent terminated her assignment because of her disability
  • Subjected to a detriment under the EqA 2010

Disability Under the Equality Act 2010

Under the EqA 2010, a person may be classed as disabled if:

  • They have a physical or mental impairment, and
  • Such impairment substantially affects their ability to perform normal everyday activities over a long period, meaning 12 months or more

The tribunal explained Ms Zalejska had a mental impairment due to her depression. After reviewing the evidence, they added it substantially affected her ability to perform normal everyday activities like sleep or shower. 

Furthermore, although they could only prove she’d suffered these effects for seven months, they believed she would continue to suffer them for at least five months, satisfying the minimum of 12. This is because her current medication wasn’t working, stating she’d wanted her GP to review it. Therefore, the tribunal concluded Ms Zalejska satisfied the definition of disability at the time of the alleged discrimination.

Less Favourable Treatment

Moving on, the tribunal stated that Ms Zalejska’s termination amounted to less favourable treatment. This was because her temporary role was intended to run for 12 weeks but concluded after just three days. They stated that such treatment amounts to a detriment under the EqA 2010.

Furthermore, they said the less favourable treatment resulted from the claimant’s disclosure of her mental health issues. This is because her disclosure led to Ms Nichols doubting her resilience and ability to deal with high-stress situations. They added that Ms Nichols wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion with a non-disabled comparator.

Therefore, had Ms Zalejska not disclosed such information, the tribunal believed her assignment wouldn’t have been terminated. As such, they concluded Principal Medical Limited’s actions amounted to disability discrimination. 

However, the case wasn’t against Principal Medical Limited, so the tribunal had to determine if the respondent treated Ms Zalejska less favourably. In this regard, the tribunal outlined how Ms Loveland accepted Ms Nichols’ desire to terminate the claimant’s assignment without first:

  • Questioning Ms Nichols’ decision
  • Discussing the decision with Ms Zalejska
  • Attempting to find an alternative

As such, the tribunal believed Ms Loveland made an instant decision based on the knowledge of the claimant’s mental health. Therefore, they ruled that the respondent treated Ms Zalejska less favourably as well, leading to her disability discrimination claim being successful.

Making a Disability Discrimination Claim

To make a disability discrimination claim, one must satisfy the definition of disability under the EqA 2010 outlined previously. Providing an individual is classed as disabled under this legislation, they can proceed with a claim if they are:

  • An employee or worker
  • A contractor
  • Self-employed working for the company
  • A job applicant
  • A former employee

Should an individual be one of the above, they could make one of several discrimination claims linked to disability. These include direct and indirect discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments and victimisation. Moreover, there are circumstances in which employers can make decisions concerning one’s disability without it being discrimination.

We are experts in employment law and can discuss your circumstances to discover your eligibility to claim compensation. We also offer several funding options to meet your needs, including hourly rate, No Win No Fee and fixed fee. Therefore, regardless of your circumstances, we can offer support in a way that suits you.

So, to begin your journey with us now, simply: