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Car Club Patrolman Can Pursue Disability Discrimination Claim

A car club highway patrolman who claims that he was victimised, harassed and, in the end, forced out of his job because of his bad back has won a fresh chance of winning compensation for alleged disability discrimination.

The man said that his employer was aware of his back problems but that no adjustments were made to cater for his disability. He alleged that his difficulties had been worsened by a change in company policy which required patrolmen to use smaller vehicles and carry out more heavy lifting. He claimed that steps were taken to remove him from his post after he raised a formal grievance.

His account of events was disputed by the employer, who claimed that he had simply been dismissed for gross misconduct after a tyre that he had fitted to a member’s car fell off. He responded that five able-bodied patrolmen (the comparators) had been involved in similar incidents but had escaped any rebuke.

Whilst allowing him to proceed with an unfair dismissal complaint, the Employment Tribunal (ET) struck out his disability discrimination claims on the basis that they had no reasonable prospect of succeeding. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld his challenge to that decision and directed a full hearing of all his claims.

The EAT found that, in failing to mention the comparators, the ET had overlooked an important part of the man’s case. It had also erred in conducting something close to a mini-trial of the facts without hearing oral evidence. The man, who had worked for the car club for almost 20 years, had raised clear triable issues of fact which required a full hearing.