DLA Piper defends tribunal discrimination claim in mental health case

DLA Piper will challenge a disability discrimination claim today after being accused of withdrawing a job offer from a claimant with a mental health condition.

The law firm will appear at the Employment Appeal Tribunal accused of retracting a job after the new recruit disclosed a previous history of depression during the recruitment process.

The unnamed claimant applied to the law firm for a professional support lawyer role in June 2008 and verbally accepted the job offer following a second interview. But after disclosing a history of mental health problems the claimant said the firm withdrew the offer on the basis of a “recruitment freeze”, Legal Week reported.

The disability discrimination claim was filed at the employment tribunal in September 2008 but was struck out in March 2009 after the tribunal ruled the claimant was not disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This ruling is now subject to appeal.

The claimant is also seeking to use European law to establish whether she was discriminated against on the basis of the firm’s belief that she was disabled.

The case is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Kiran Daurka, employment solicitor at Russell Jones, which is representing the claimant, said: “This is a very important case in the context of mental health discrimination as it is notoriously difficult to bring such conditions under the current definition of disability.

“Mental health conditions still carry a great deal of stigma and are often misunderstood. Claimants with such conditions are often portrayed as fraudulent.

“We hope the various points of appeal will assist in clarifying the law to make it simpler for claimants to overcome the first hurdle in their case in proving that they are in fact disabled and entitled to protection under the Disability Discrimination Act.”

DLA Piper declined to comment.

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