DLA Piper denies ‘perceived’ disability discrimination claim by lawyer

Law firm DLA Piper has denied discriminating against a successful job applicant on the grounds of her ‘perceived’ disability.

The claimant, known only as ‘J’, told the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) the firm had offered her a job as a professional support lawyer in June 2008. But when J disclosed she had a history of depression in a telephone health questionnaire, the firm allegedly withdrew the job offer immediately and instigated a recruitment freeze, it has been claimed.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, J’s original tribunal claim was struck out in March last year after the court ruled she was not disabled. This is now being appealed in the EAT, where it is being heard by the EAT president because of the complexity of the issues at stake, which relate to the ‘perception’ of a disability, the Law Gazette has reported.

The case comes as the Equality Bill is attempting to ban pre-employment health questionnaires, leaving employers open to more tribunal claims if they withdraw the job offer after finding out about a health condition. Employment lawyers have argued that firms who can justify a legitimate business reason as to why they can no longer employ somebody following disclosure of a medical condition have “nothing to worry about” at tribunal.

J is seeking compensation for damage to injured feelings, which carries a maximum award of £30,000.

A spokeswoman for DLA Piper said the firm could not comment because the case was ongoing.

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