Case roundup

This week’s case roundup

Failure to make reasonable adjustments justified
Schwarzkopf v Quinn, IDS Brief 715, Court of Session

In this case, the Court of Session (Scotland) overturned the EAT decision
that an employer had discriminated against an employee when it had not
considered whether any reasonable adjustments could have been made to his
duties, as required by section 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Quinn was dismissed from his job as a travelling salesman after five years’
sickness absence, having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and he claimed
disability discrimin-ation. But Schwarzkopf successfully argued at the tribunal
that its failure to make reasonable adjustments, and its decision to dismiss
Quinn, were both justified on the basis that no adjustments to Quinn’s duties
were possible, despite the fact none had been considered.

Quinn successfully appealed to the EAT, which decided that Schwarzkopf could
not rely on the defence of objective justification when it claimed to have been
unaware of Quinn’s disability, and had failed to consider making reasonable
adjustments. Schwarzkopf appealed to the Court of Session.

The court held that Quinn had not suffered unlawful discrimination. It was
impossible to make reasonable adjustments to his job to accommo-date his
disability. This decision suggests that an employer can rely on the defence of
justification, even if it had no knowledge of an employee’s disability at the
time of the act of discrimination.

Part-timer treated less favourably
Humphries v Quality Assured Services Ltd, EOR 108, ET

While only a first level tribunal decision, this interesting case dealing
with the issue of part-timers pay demonstrates how employers could fall foul of
two sets of legislation.

Humphries was a female part-time evening cleaner. She brought a claim for
equal pay under the Equal Pay Act 1970, on the basis that a comparable male
cleaner who worked during the daytime received 25p per hour more than her.
Full-time cleaners similarly received 25p more per hour, and Humphries
therefore also claimed that she was being treated less favourably under the
Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.

The tribunal agreed that all the cleaners undertook duties of a similar
nature, and there was no apparent justification for the discrepancy in pay. The
tribunal accordingly amended Humphries’ contract to the higher hourly rate.

It further concluded that her lower rate of pay compared with that of a
full-time worker, constituted less favourable treatment on the basis of her
part-time status, without any justification. Humphries was entitled to a
declaration of that fact and was awarded compensation.

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