£280,000 awarded for disability discrimination
In James v The Chief Constable of Norfolk, a tribunal awarded £280,000 to a police officer who would have completed his career in the service if reasonable adjustments had been made. It was not unreasonable for the officer to have been offered other posts rather than being retired on ill-health grounds, which occurred in order to help meet Government targets regarding “front-line” policing.
Mr James has a degenerative eye condition, keratoconus. He was able to manage the adverse effects with the aid of some workplace adjustments and successfully carried out a non-operational role. When the Home Office introduced targets for front-line policing, Mr James was told that it was very likely he would be made redundant as his current circumstances could not be accommodated.
Faced with the threat of redundancy, Mr James retired on ill-health grounds and lodged a disability discrimination claim. He argued that he would still have been employed, and would have completed 30 years’ service, if the Norfolk Constabulary had made reasonable adjustments. These included appointing him to the post of Neighbourhood Policing Project Manager or by transferring him as a police officer to other staff posts that became available.
The tribunal upheld Mr James’s claim on the basis that the Constabulary had failed to make the reasonable adjustments which he had suggested. Recognising that to a certain extent, the Chief Constable’s ‘hands had been tied’ the tribunal criticised the Home Office guidance on front-line staff that led to Mr James losing his job. In the tribunal’s view, protecting a disabled officer who cannot perform front-line duties must fall outside the statistics and should not affect the Constabulary’s ability to meet the targets set.
The tribunal awarded £280,361 compensation: the second highest amount ever awarded in a disability discrimination case.
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