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United Kingdom

UK: Discrimination – the Definition of “Disability”

Mr. Sullivan, a sales executive, suffered paranoid delusions that a Russian gang was after him, in 2013 and again in 2017. The delusions impacted on his attendance and timekeeping. Following his dismissal, he brought a disability discrimination claim. For this claim to succeed, Mr. Sullivan had to show that the delusions had a substantial adverse effect on his normal day-to-day activities, which was long term or was “likely to recur”.

The tribunal concluded that, at the relevant time, the substantial adverse effect that was caused by his condition was not likely to recur, meaning his condition was not a disability.

The EAT agreed. Just because the delusions did recur in 2017 did not mean that, in 2013, it was likely that they would recur.

Practical Point

On a slightly separate note, a colleague of Mr. Sullivan’s gave evidence at the hearing that he did not know about his delusions. The EAT noted that an individual’s knowledge in their capacity as an employee or agent of a company may be relevant in determining whether the company has knowledge of the employee’s disability, particularly where the company is small.

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