Williams v J Walter Thompson Group Ltd, CA,17 February 2005

Duty to make reasonable adjustments

J Walter Thompson Group (JWT) employed Ms Williams as a computer software operator knowing that she was blind and would need certain equipment and training to carry out her work. However, once her employment began, that equipment and training was not provided, nor was she given suitable work to do.

Williams eventually resigned, and claimed that she had been unlawfully discriminated against by reason of her disability. The tribunal agreed. It also held that JWT had failed to comply with its statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments, and that Williams had been constructively dismissed.

That decision was overturned by the EAT, which found there had been errors of law on the part of the tribunal. The case was sent back for a rehearing at tribunal.

Morgan appealed, and the Court of Appeal reinstated the original decision. It found the fact that JWT had employed Williams knowing that adjustments would have to be made to be of particular significance.

The Court of Appeal’s comments imply that it may be harder for employers to justify discrimination when they are aware of an employee’s disability and the need to make adjustments at the time employment is offered.

This suggests that the question of reasonable adjustments must be considered before, rather than after, offering employment.

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