Employers will be closely watching a test case for direct disability discrimination which takes place next month, involving a shopfloor worker who was sacked for having diabetes.
Elizabeth Morrison, a former bakery assistant, said she was dismissed from Emma’s Country Cakes after her manager claimed her medical condition made her a liability on the factory floor.
Morrison’s case has been taken up by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) as one of the first examples of direct discrimination under the amended Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The Act protects anyone suffering with a disability from clear prejudice.
Agnes Fletcher, assistant director of communication at the DRC, said: “This case represents a much bigger issue. It was pure prejudice, a knee-jerk reaction that was entirely unfounded.”
Fletcher said Morrison’s manager had wrongly assumed she would have frequent blackouts which could be potentially hazardous in terms of health and safety. But the only reasonable adjustment the factory would have needed to make was to ensure she had regular rest breaks, every four hours or so, to ensure her insulin levels were maintained.
Adam Turner, employment lawyer at Lovells, said he was very surprised by the case, which begins in Bristol on 8 February. “The company has clearly breached the obligations of the DDA which is aimed specifically at situations like this. It’s caused by a clear stigma about a perceived disability,” he said.