Employee with Stammer Loses Disability Case; EAT Says Employers Must Have Full Knowledge of the Effects of the Disability

In the disability case of Mr S Glasson v The Insolvency Service, the employment appeals tribunal dismissed claims of failure to make reasonable adjustments and disability discrimination. They concluded the original tribunal was correct in establishing that the employer couldn’t have known of the significant disadvantage the employee had experienced. Below, we explore what happened and the tribunal’s judgment.

If you have faced similar circumstances and want to claim compensation, contact Redmans Solicitors now. We are employment law specialists and can assess your circumstances before advising you on the eligibility of your disability case.

To begin your journey with us today, simply:

The Facts in Mr S Glasson v The Insolvency Service

Background to the Disability Case

Mr S Glasson (“The Claimant”) has worked for The Insolvency Service (“The Respondent”) since 2005. Throughout his employment, he’s performed at a high level and has successfully undertaken temporary promotions. Also, he had a stammer, which the respondent was aware of and accepted fell under an Equality Act 2010 disability.

On 7 July 2020, the claimant took part in an interview for a new role. Other than requesting additional time, he didn’t request any adjustments. Furthermore, once the selection process had concluded, he didn’t raise any difficulties he had experienced due to his disability.

Sometime later, the claimant applied for the role of deputy official receiver. Prior to the interview, he outlined that he’d require reasonable adjustments in the form of additional time. He said, “I have a stammer and may require longer to answer questions in the interview”. Then, he was interviewed for the role on 18 September 2020.

Whilst being interviewed, the claimant struggled to provide complete answers as he entered a ‘restrictive mode’. According to the claimant, this resulted in him limiting what he said to reduce his stammer. Despite his considerations to terminate the interview at the time, he continued, believing it was the least worst option.

The claimant didn’t inform the respondent at any time during the application process of the impacts of his stammer and how it affected his answers. In his mind, the respondent ought to have known this to be the case.

Despite performing well and succeeding in his interview, the claimant scored third highest. Unfortunately for the claimant, the two candidates who scored higher were offered the promotions. Consequently, the claimant brought claims of failure to make reasonable adjustments and disability discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The employment tribunal began by addressing the potential failure to make reasonable adjustments in the disability case. They explained how the respondent couldn’t have had constructive knowledge of the claimant’s substantial disadvantage during the selection process due to his stammer.

This was because the claimant failed to disclose the specific detriment he faced at any time in his application. He hadn’t discussed this in his previous interview and didn’t mention it until a decision for the roles was provided. Furthermore, his high standard of work and reasonably competent interview answers meant the respondent had no reason to believe his disability had disadvantaged him. As such, the tribunal held the respondent hadn’t failed to make reasonable adjustments.

The tribunal then considered the claims of disability discrimination. They found that the claimant had been subject to unfavourable treatment during the disability case due to his stammer. They reasoned this was because of the lower score he achieved.

Despite this, they didn’t conclude he had faced any unlawful discrimination. Here, the tribunal discussed how the interview had to occur via video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, they explained how removing the oral aspect of the interview could have reduced the discriminatory impact but wouldn’t have been appropriate. The role comprised oral communication, meaning testing the applicant’s skills on this was essential.

In reaching their decision, the tribunal said the respondent had a “legitimate aim of having a fair and proportionate recruitment process for filling any vacancies”, which they achieved. As such, the disability discrimination claim was also dismissed.

The Disability Case Reaches Appeal

Since the claimant’s disability case failed, he appealed the employment tribunal’s decision. Among other things, he claimed the tribunal erred in its judgment concerning the severity of the disadvantage he’d faced and whether the respondent had knowledge of it. He said the respondent ought to have known of the disadvantage after stating, “I have a stammer and may require longer to answer questions in the interview”.

However, just like the original tribunal, the employment appeals tribunal held that the respondent didn’t have “constructive knowledge of the substantial disadvantage.” As such, the decision, again, went in favour of the respondent.

Our Final Thoughts

With the claimant losing his disability case, employees must take an important lesson from the decision. If an employee has a disability, they should disclose it and any disadvantage potentially arising from it to their employer. Failure to do so could prevent them from finding a resolution for unfavourable treatment later down the line.

If you have experienced disability discrimination and are unsure how to proceed, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors can answer your questions and advise on your possible next steps. To get in touch with us today: