Landmark ruling means more disabled people will get legal protection from discrimination

Victory in a landmark case which recieved the support of the Equality Human Rights Commission means that more people will recieve protection from Disability Discrimination. According to the House of Lords ruling disabled people with varying conditions will also be considered disabled in the eyes of the law where the condition is likely to become severe again.

The Commission intervened in the case to argue that people with medical conditions that they managed themselves but varied in severity over time, should be entitled to the same legal protection as those whose conditions were more stable.

The case was brought by Elizabeth Boyle who alleged she had been discriminated against by her former employer of 32 years, SCA Packaging. She had developed vocal nodules which she managed with a strict regime including speech therapy and only speaking very quietly. Mrs Boyle began her legal action nine years ago after her employer developed plans to remove partitions near her desk despite opposition from Mrs Boyle and her surgeon. The company argued Mrs Boyle was not disabled as her condition no longer had an adverse effect on her life.

Susie Uppal, Director of Legal Enforcement at the Commission, said:

'Many people have chronic medical conditions, such as epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. Often, they do not define themselves as disabled as they can manage the symptoms or their condition may be in remission.  However, it is important that these people are recognised as being disabled under the law so they get the protection they need to prevent their conditions recurring and their quality of life suffering as a result.

'Lord Hope said the case was important for people with intermittent conditions who needed protection under the law.  He said that these people included “those suffering from conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy whose disability is concealed from public view so long as it is controlled by medication. Their disability is insidious. The measures that are taken to treat or correct it, so long as they are effective, enable them to carry on normal day-to-day activities just like everyone else. But the disability is there nevertheless.'

The case will now return to the Northern Ireland Employment Tribunal to consider if Mrs Boyle has been subjected to unlawful discrimination based on her disability.

posted by, Asif Yusuf



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