DLA Piper forced to re-defend mental health discrimination case

Employment law firm DLA Piper has failed to quash a mental health discrimination Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case launched by a former lawyer and will now have to re-defend the claim at an employment tribunal.

The claimant, known as ‘J’, brought a claim under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), after alleging a job offer by DLA Piper was withdrawn in 2008 once she revealed her mental health problems.

J had two interviews before being offered the job, which she accepted verbally. But when she disclosed her depression, she claims the job offer was withdrawn on the basis of a ‘recruitment freeze’.

At an initial employment tribunal hearing, the claimant was told she was not disabled.

Implications for employers

Disability discrimination: EAT distinguishes between low mood caused by work and clinical depression

The XpertHR case reports stop press service explains the implications of the EAT decision in J v DLA Piper LLP. The EAT found that there is a difference between “despondency, demotivation and anxiety” caused by problems at work and “clinical depression”, in a case where a lawyer claimed discrimination when a firm found out about her history of mental illness and withdrew a job offer.

The claimant appealed the judgment at the EAT, and the court has now ruled the case must return to an employment tribunal for a fresh hearing, The Lawyer magazine reported.

In a statement DLA Piper said it had acted “entirely appropriately” in applying a recruitment freeze, adding that the freeze “unfortunately caught the job application involving the claimant”.

The disability discrimination claim was filed at an employment tribunal in September 2008, but was struck out in March 2009 after the tribunal ruled the claimant was not disabled under the DDA.

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