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Discrimination by Association

Today the Employment Appeal Tribunal gave another important and far reaching judgment in the long running case of Attridge Law v Coleman.

In 2007 Sharon Coleman took her employer, Attridge Law, to court. Ms Coleman is not herself disabled, but she has a son who is. She alleged disability discrimination and constructive dismissal, which she believed occurred as a result of her caring responsibilities for her son (discrimination by association).

The European Court of Justice decided in July that the EU's anti-discrimination laws, which protect disabled people in the workplace, do cover their carers as well. After the ECJ’s judgment, the tribunal found in Ms Coleman’s favour, effectively outlawing associative discrimination.

The employer appealed against the decision, on the grounds that the tribunal had "distorted and rewritten" the DDA. But today, Mr Justice Underhill, the president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, dismissed the appeal. The ruling means all carers are now protected by anti-discrimination legislation in the workplace.

If they have not already done so, employers should consider whether their equal opportunity, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and absence policies comply with the law in the light of this decision.

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