Home » Disability equality law » Cases on stammering

Cases on stammering

Disclaimer – please read
This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 2nd February, 2024.

These are tribunal decisions I know of which specifically deal with stammering. This page also includes some examples of people who stammer successfully using disability discrimination legislation without going as far as a tribunal.

Tribunal and EAT cases

Glasson v The Insolvency Service, 2024, Employment Appeal Tribunal
The claimant’s answers in an interview were not full enough, as he limited them due to his stammer. He called this his “restrictive mode”. The employer knew of his stammer, and accepted it was a disability within the Equality Act. However, the tribunal found the employer did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the disadvantage. The tribunal therefore rejected his claim for reasonable adjustments. It also rejected a claim under s.15 EqA. On appeal, the EAT upheld this decision.

M v Manchester Rusk Co, 2023, Employment Tribunal
The employment tribunal found that the claimant’s stammer was not a disability within the Equality Act. The burden of proof was on the claimant, and he had not presented sufficient evidence to show that his stammer had a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. That was supported by the tribunal’s observation of him in the video hearing, where he stammered very little.

A v Qualasept, 2023, Employment Tribunal
The claimant had a stammer and type II diabetes. He was dismissed after a probationary period. Issues were his attendance, communication style (eg tending to argue, upset people), and pace of work. The employment tribunal rejected his claims for race and disability discrimination. As regards his stammer, the tribunal found that criticisms of his communication style did not arise from his stammer. The tribunal also rejected complaints that the employer should have continued to allow a non-workplace friend to attend meetings, and about how a manager reacted to his stammer.

A v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, 2023, Employment Tribunal
The claimant’s current role in the NHS involved many phone calls, and his employer had allowed reasonable adjustments in respect of his stammer. Another NHS employer withdrew its job offer for a role which was similar (albeit the calls could be more challenging), saying it could not accommodate his stammer as regards difficulties speaking in front of colleagues. The tribunal held the new employer failed to make reasonable adjustments of having a trial period, offering him an enhanced induction/familiarisation process, and enabling him to work in another office if free. The tribunal also upheld a claim of discrimination arising from disability; it would be proportionate to try the claimant in the role with reasonable adjustments in place.

D v Nottingham Squash Rackets Club, 2022, Employment Tribunal
The claimant had a stammer and other disabilities. He went off work with stress due to how he was treated (not related to his disabilities). While he was still off work, he and two other members of staff were made redundant due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His tribunal claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination failed. Among other things, redundancy of his job rather than his disabilities or his absence was genuinely the reason for his dismissal. The tribunal also considered how his communication would have been in a redundancy consultation via Zoom call had he been well enough to take part in one.

W v TJ Morris (t/a Home Bargains), 2022, Employment Tribunal
The claimant had spinal issues and a stammer. Among other things she alleged that the store manager would not allow her to put her case to him, by speaking over her and completing her sentences. It was undisputed that she was disabled, and the tribunal held that as regards the stammer, the employer had sufficient knowledge of her disability to potentially enable her to claim. However her disability discrimination claims failed because the tribunal did not accept the alleged incidents happened.

Garcia v The Leadership Factor, 2022, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
The EAT upheld a tribunal decision requiring a claimant who stammers to pay a deposit as a condition of proceeding with his EqA claims. He was claiming direct and indirect disability discrimination in relation to requirements that telephone interviewers have a “clear voice” and be in “good health”. The EAT held the tribunal was entitled to find these claims had little reasonable prospect of success.

M v Real Care Agency, 2022, Employment Tribunal
A home care worker was dismissed after being off sick with depression (a disability). Her stammer was normally not apparent but did arise during bad periods of depression. She made EqA claims as regards allegedly not being able to attend a probationary review meeting because of her stammer, and the employer being unwilling to discuss sick pay with her wife without proper authorisation when the claimant herself said she couldn’t cope with a phone call. The claims failed, mainly because the employer could not reasonably be expected to know of her stammer. A lesson is that to have an EqA claim it is helpful to ensure the employer knows of the disability.

C v Menzies Aviation, 2021, Employment Tribunal
The claimant alleged he had been mimicked due to his stammer, and claimed disability discrimination. This was a preliminary decision on whether his stammer was a disability within the Equality Act. The tribunal held yes it was. Its effect was much more than trivial. While – ultimately – the claimant might be able to express himself clearly, his communication was marked by his stammer and framed by the reactions of his audience, with the consequent and significant impact upon him and his day-to-day activities.

N v Packaging Automation, 2021, Employment Tribunal
A worker with a stammer was dismissed and claimed disability discrimination. The tribunal held he did not have a disability within the Equality Act. His stammer sounded only slight. The tribunal acknowledged that a stammer may also have hidden effects. However in this case the tribunal did not have sufficient evidence that the stammer had a more than minor or trivial adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. (This decision highlights the need to present sufficient evidence of disability.)

M v Ban-Car Hotel, 2021, Employment Tribunal
The tribunal found the claimant was disabled within the Equality Act, by reason of her stammer and depression. However it held there was no discrimination, so her claim failed overall.

O v TC Facilities Management, 2020, Employment Tribunal
The claimant’s employment was terminated without notice due to his alleged “verbal and threatening behaviour towards management” at a meeting. Part of the problem was him speaking loudly and quickly at the meeting – he had a stammer which caused him to do this when trying to communicate under stress. The employment tribunal rejected his claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal. He did not make an Equality Act claim.

Y v West Yorkshire Combined Authority, 2020, Employment Tribunal
A claimant who stammers argued that the employer should have made further adjustments to an interview and presentation, for example expressly telling him he had extra time, follow-up questions where his answers were unduly short, and arrangements to enable him to keep eye contact. The tribunal held that on the facts the adjustments which had been made were sufficient. The employer accepted that the stammer was a ‘disability’.

G v British Airways, 2020, Employment Tribunal
The tribunal refused to allow a claimant to amend his claim to add disability discrimination related to stammering. From listening to him, the tribunal said there was a “discernible, very mild stammer” which the tribunal very much doubted was a disability. In any event, though, the sheer weight of evidence explaining the rejection of his job application on the basis that he just did not demonstrate the right competencies, showed that any stammer played no effective role in the employer’s decision.

C v Spencer & Arlington, 2019, Employment Tribunal
The employment tribunal rejected a claim that an employee had a stammer which (he said) started in adulthood. He contended that the stammer was why he had raised his voice in a meeting, but he gave a different explanation at the time. He had not told the employer he had a stammer. Also the tribunal said that none of the employer’s witnesses had ever perceived a stammer.

M v Mitie Aviation Security, 2017, Employment Tribunal
A claimant who spoke fast, and may or may not have had cluttering or a stammer, was held not to have a disability within the Equality Act.
Comment: This was not particularly a case on stammering. In any event there are arguments which could have been raised to argue it was a disability within the Equality Act.

B v Ceredigion County Council, 2013?, Employment Tribunal
The employment tribunal seems to have held the claimant’s stammer was a disability. It took into account that people with whom he was seeking to communicate could disengage.

M v Asda, 2012, Employment Tribunal
A worker was dismissed after speaking in the store to his cousin and co-worker in what was described as a loud and threatening manner. He said it was his stammer that caused him to raise his voice unusually and to gesticulate. The tribunal seems to have held his stammer was a disability. Even so his disability discrimination claim failed.

Wakefield v HM Land Registry, 2008, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
A rare appeal decision on stammering. On the evidence, the EAT overturned an employment tribunal decision that the claimant should have been allowed to give written answers to interview questions. A previous tribunal decision (not disputed) held that the stammer was a ‘disability’, acknowleding the significant effect that covert symptoms of stammering may have.

S v Translink, 2007-08, Employment Tribunal
An existing employee failed a ‘competence-based interview’ as he did not provide enough examples and evidence of his competencies. The tribunal held that his stammer was a disability. However, on the facts there was no breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Y v Bradford Council, 2006, Employment Tribunal
An employer adjusted the recruitment process for a person with a severe stammer by allowing written responses to pre-set interview questions, and a written equivalent of a presentation exercise. However, there was held to be a breach of the reasonable adjustment duty. The claimant had not been given enough time for the written presentation. Also he had not been told how long he had to write the interview answers. The employer accepted that the stammer was a ‘disability’.

S v Tesco Stores Ltd, 2006, Employment Tribunal
The applicant claimed to have been turned down for a job as a wages clerk because of a stammer. The appeal was on a procedural point, and so did not determine the outcome of the case

Heatherwood & Wrexham Park Hospitals Trust v Beer, 2006, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
The EAT considered reasonable adjustments to redeploy a person with a mental impairment of which a prominent symptom was stuttering.

B v Servisair (UK) Ltd, 2004, Employment Tribunal
The tribunal held a ‘speech impediment’ to be a ‘physical impairment’. Since the applicant’s impairment undisputedly had the required long term and substantial effects, he was disabled within the DDA. In fact the tribunal does not say whether the ‘speech impediment’ was a stammer.

T v Office for National Statistics, 2004, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
The EAT reports that at a preliminary hearing it was determined that, because of his stammer, the claimant was at all material times a person with a disability for the purposes of the DDA. The EAT went on to uphold the tribunal’s decision that the claimant’s dismissal was not for a reason related to his disability, and that there had been no failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Y v Calderdale Council, 2003, Employment Tribunal
An employment tribunal found that an employer had not made sufficient reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process for a person who stammers. More time was allowed for the interview, but the amount of information the person was able to convey compared to other candidates was still much reduced. The tribunal suggested other adjustments the Council could have considered. The employer accepted that the stammer was a ‘disability’.

W v British School of Motoring, April 2002, Employment Tribunal
A case brought by a person wanting to be a driving instructor was dismissed because no employment was involved. He would be a franchisee.

A v Walkers Snack Foods, 2001, Employment Tribunal
Allegations of harassment/verbal bullying of a person who stammers were rejected by the tribunal on the evidence. Part of the decision related to adjustments to a role play in a ‘Business Basics Course’ – the employer had made some adjustments and was held not to have a duty to do more. The employer accepted that the stammer was a ‘disability’.

B v John Edward Crowther Ltd, 2002, Employment Tribunal
The employer was held liable for abuse and taunting by colleagues directed at the claimant’s stammer. Under Equality Act 2010, it would have been dealt with as a claim for harassment. The employer accepted that the stammer was a ‘disability’.

S v The Lord Advocate, 2000, Employment Tribunal
A lawyer with a stammer was turned down for a job. His DDA claim failed on the grounds that the stammer did not have a ‘substantial’ effect. His stammer was largely concealed and was held to be too minor to be a ‘disability. However, this has been superseded by the 2006 Guidance on definition of disability. Because the stammer was held not to be a disability, the tribunal never got to consider whether the rejection was because of the stammer.

There is a separate page on cases about whether a stammer was a disability (all are in the list above). They nearly all held it to be a disability.

Out of court

Tribunal decisions give only part of the picture. People who stammer have successfully used the Equality Act or DDA without the matter going as far as a tribunal or court. For example:

“An adult seeking Universal Credit felt they were discriminated against in a face-to-face assessment because of their stammer, and asked for a paper-based exam. We liaised with the Department for Work & Pensions by phone, email and letter, and the request was finally granted.”
STAMMA 2021 end of year report (visme.co), p.20

Reasonable adjustment settlement (2004)
This involved amongst other things the set-up of the interview room for use of ‘text to speech technology’, difficulty in giving full answers with a stammer, and weighting of information given in the application form to compensate.

An academic in Northern Ireland received an agreed sum in compensation for failure to be promoted, allegedly due to his stammer. This was under an out of court settlement reached in December 2002. He had subsequently received the promotion, after a review of the scheme under which he had been refused it for two years.

A person obtained paid time off for an intensive stammering course through using the employer’s internal grievance procedure. More…

‘A more than reasonable adjustment’ (archive of stammering.org), 2004
An employer paid for a (non-NHS) speech therapy course, and for the employee to go to British Stammering Association National Conferences.

According to a newspaper report, a police officer’s probationary period was extended after he repeatedly failed passing-out exams because of difficulty talking. He was working in an admin job.

There are numerous legal decisions on disabilities other than stammering but which are relevant in various ways. I refer to many of these where appropriate on the website.

20th anniversary of stammeringlaw, 1999-2019