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Cases on stammering

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Last updated 17th November 2021.

These are tribunal decisions I know of which specifically deal with stammering. This page also includes some examples of people who stammer successfully using the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 without going as far as a tribunal.

Tribunal cases

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.

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
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 DDA or Equality Act without the matter going as far as a tribunal or court. For example:

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