An interesting case from the Employment Appeal Tribunal has been reported. Employment solicitors are noting its employee-friendly slant.

Mr Risby was a paraplegic following a road collision and worked for the council. He also had a short temper, which was nothing to do with his disability.

His employer invited staff to a meeting and when Mr Risby found out that it was in a basement with no wheelchair access, he was angry and worked himself into a state about it overnight.

At work, he shouted about it at a junior, almost reducing her to tears. He said, in the open office, “the Council would not get away with this if they said that no f***king  n***ers were allowed to attend”.

He was suspended and dismissed, despite his defence that he was not racist, just making a point in a strong way. He lost his case at the employment tribunal but appealed, hoping to show that the dismissal was unfavourable treatment “in consequence of his disability”. This is the hurdle of showing that the dismissal was in some way linked to his disability, which is what this case is about.

If he could get over this hurdle, he would still need to show that dismissal was disproportionate but (a) this might be easier than showing it was unfair and (b) one hurdle at a time.

The tribunal had said that there was “no logical connection between his behaviour on 19 June and the fact that he is wheelchair bound“.

The EAT however said there was such a connection. It was hidden behind a couple of layers i.e. wheelchair user status → inability to attend meeting → anger → rudeness.

So that first hurdle can be overcome quite easily for an employee and these cases will tend to turn on whether the employer’s treatement is proportionate or not, which is just a question of reasonableness. This case will go back to the employment tribunal for another look, though we suspect that the answer will be the same for the employee.

Case report: Risby v Waltham Forrest BC