Abrahart case: oral assessments led to suicide
Abrahart v University of Bristol: oral assessments led to suicide, County Court decision, May 2022. This tragic case involved a physics student with depression and social anxiety disorder. The university continued to seek to use oral interviews to assess her, even though she failed to attend most of them. This continued after the university knew she had a mental health problem connected to the interviews. She committed suicide in her flat on the day when the university wanted her to be part of a group giving an oral conference presentation. The County Court held the university liable under the Equality Act.
Also expanded coverage of the “curriculum defence”, which the university initially sought to rely on in this case, and which it may retry if the case goes to appeal: Oral assessments at university: the rules>Curriculum defence.
Boyers and Knightley cases on justification
The second Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in DWP v Boyers, 2022, considered whether failures in procedure/process are relevant in deciding if unfavourable treatment such as a dismissal is “justified” under s.15 EqA. The EAT said it is the unfavourable treatment or “outcome” (here the dismissal) that must be justified, but the process or procedure leading up to it can be relevant to justification. See Objective justification defence>Outcome vs process.
In Knightley v Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 2021, the EAT held that a dismissal could still be proportionate under s.15 if the employer failed to make a reasonable adjustment which would have made no difference to the dismissal. However if a reasonable adjustment would have meant that the dismissal became unnecessary, the dismissal was likely to be disproportionate. More: Objective justification defence>Relevance of reasonable adjustments.
Also Objective justification defence page updated generally.
Related to that, on unfair dismissal I’ve added a section Losing one’s job>Unfair dismissal: Relevance of procedure, and have updated Losing one’s job more generally.
Bill of Rights Bill
In June 2022, the government published a Bill which would make important changes to human rights legislation. More: Bill of Rights Bill.
Workers: who is covered by the Equality Act?
Giving staff a right to appoint a substitute to do the work is used by many employers (particularly in the gig economy) to try to argue that employment rights do not apply. In Sejpal v Rodericks Dental, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has suggested that giving someone an unfettered right to appoint someone else may not necessarily prevent them from being a “worker” protected by the Equality Act. Discussion: Employees, workers and beyond: Right of substitution, particularly Right of substitution: purpose of legislation, and “personally”.
Victimisation page updated for two cases:
- Warburton v Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, 2022, where the EAT considered what is meant by “detriment”, and when is it “because” of a protected act, and
- Chalmers v Airpoint, 2020, where the EAT held the tribunal was entitled to find that a grievance saying the employer’s action “may be discriminatory” was not a protected act.
Victimisation (under s.27 EqA) is where an employer or service provider etc ‘punishes’ a person because of making or being involved in a discrimination claim.
- Previous updates Website updates March to April 2022.