Discrimination by association confirmed by settlement in Coleman case

Protection for employees against discrimination by association has been confirmed following the settlement of a high-profile case.

Attridge Law has now dropped its legal challenge against whether former employee Sharon Coleman could claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination by association, instead reaching an out-of-court settlement.

Employment law experts have said the settlement has confirmed “without doubt” that discrimination by association is unlawful.

Coleman, who claimed she was forced to quit her job after requesting time off to care for her disabled son, last year won an Employment Appeal Tribunal case, which upheld that associative discrimination could be interpreted as unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The law firm had intended to pursue the case in the Court of Appeal but has now agreed an undisclosed out-of-court sum with Coleman.

John Read, an employment law editor at XpertHR, told Personnel Today: “Attridge Law dropping its challenge to the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision removes any lingering doubt that associative disability discrimination will continue to be unlawful even prior to the enactment of the Equality Bill.

“The Bill, which recently passed its third and final reading, explicitly makes ‘associative’ discrimination unlawful.”

Coleman first brought her claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination against her employer in 2005.

The employment tribunal referred the case to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that the European Directive, on which UK disability discrimination legislation is based, does protect able-bodied people who were discriminated against because of another person’s disability.

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