Landmark disability discrimination case: woman wins payout

The woman at the centre of a landmark discrimination case in which the House of Lords clarified the UK’s Disability Law has been awarded £125,000 compensation from her former employer.

Elizabeth Boyle, who had developed vocal nodules which threaten speech, alleged she had been discriminated against by her former employer of 32 years, SCA Packaging , reports the BBC.

Boyle protested when SCA removed partitions near her desk causing her to speak more loudly. The company argued Boyle was not disabled as her condition no longer had an adverse effect on her life.

In October 2001, she began proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Act alleging discrimination on grounds of her employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for her disability.

In May 2002, after 33 years service, Boyle was made redundant and, arising from this decision, she brought further proceedings alleging victimisation and unfair dismissal.

Her legal battle went as far as the Court of Appeal in Belfast before ending up in the House of Lords, then the UK’s highest court.

Upholding a Court of Appeal ruling, the House of Lords has now ruled that people with physical or mental conditions which vary in severity over time should still be termed “disabled”.

The ruling means that more people with controlled, recurring conditions are covered by disability law.

It extends protection from discrimination to people with a range of health conditions where symptoms can be managed or may fluctuate. This could include conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

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