Disability discrimination: EAT holds that an employee’s paranoid delusions did not amount to a disability- Sullivan v Bury Street Capital Limited

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (‘EAT’) has held that an employee who suffered from paranoid delusions that he was being followed and stalked by a Russian gang did not have a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.

Facts

From 2013, the Claimant suffered from paranoid delusions that he was being followed and stalked by a Russian gang which affected his timekeeping, attendance and record keeping. This subsequently improved however in 2017, his delusions worsened. The Claimant was subsequently dismissed for reasons relating to his capability and attitude. The Claimant brought a number of claims against the Respondent including for disability discrimination. The Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) upheld his unfair dismissal claim but held that he did not have a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. The Claimant appealed this decision.

Outcome

The EAT dismissed the appeal and agreed with the ET that the Claimant did not suffer from a disability. The ET was right to conclude that although there was a substantial adverse effect in 2013 and 2017, this was not long term at the relevant time and not likely to recur.  It is necessary to draw a distinction between the beliefs of the Claimant and the effect that such beliefs had on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities which the ET had correctly done.

The EAT further noted that it was irrelevant that the delusions recurred in 2017 and that this does not always show that a further episode is likely. The ET had identified a triggering event which followed discussions about remuneration in 2017 and held that once resoled, the Claimant’s condition would improve. The EAT thereafter held that the ET was right to conclude that the substantial adverse effect was not one which was likely to recur, both as at 2013 and as at 2017.

The EAT also concluded that the ET was correct to decide that the Respondent did not know and could not reasonably be expected to know of the disability.

Implications for employers

Although this decision is very fact specific, it provides useful guidance on establishing if the definition of a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 has been met and specifically an insight into how the tribunal is likely to approach the long-term requirement within the definition. It also serves as a useful reminder to employers to act cautiously if they suspect an employee may be suffering from a disability, such as a mental health issue.

 

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law Firms

UK Chambers logo

Best Companies - One to watch logo

Cyber Essentials Certification Logo