Bank Worker's Disability Discrimination Claim Setback

A bank worker who claims she was subjected to a campaign of abuse and degrading treatment by colleagues due to the 'pot-pourri' of medical conditions from which she suffered has sustained a serious setback in her fight for compensation (Morgan Stanley International Inc. v Posavec).

The woman had worked for the investment bank for less than a year before she was purportedly made redundant. She launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings against her employer, claiming that a large ovarian tumour and fibromyalgia from which she was suffering at the relevant time amounted to disabilities which interfered with her ability to perform heavy or stressful work. She was alleged to have suffered victimisation and discrimination and the bank was accused of failing to make reasonable adjustments to cater for her disabilities.

At a preliminary hearing, the woman sought to rely upon a number of other medical conditions – including a thyroid problem, depression, arthritis, eye problems and carpal tunnel syndrome – which she had not previously raised. She claimed that she was incapable of writing, typing, using a computer or holding a meeting for more than a few minutes without the onset of painful symptoms. The ET found that she was disabled and refused the bank's application to strike out her claim.

In allowing the bank's appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET had failed to tackle the central task of identifying which conditions or symptoms gave rise to a disability. That issue was of importance because the woman was not entitled to rely on matters which had not been pleaded in advance.

The bank's strike-out application was remitted to the ET for a re-hearing at which it will be open to the bank to argue that the woman's pleaded conditions and symptoms did not substantially interfere with her ability to do her job. Factual issues as to whether the bank knew of her problems and whether there was a failure to make reasonable adjustments would also be considered.

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