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Rejection of disability-related explanation was not discriminatory

Rejection of disability-related explanation was not discriminatory

In Edinburgh Council v Dickson, the EAT held that although a diabetic employee’s dismissal for gross misconduct was unfair, the employer’s rejection of the employee’s explanation that his disability was the cause of his behaviour was not an act of disability discrimination.

Mr Dickson, suffers from insulin-dependent diabetes. He was seen looking at hard-core pornographic images on a Council computer. He claimed he could not recall the incident and that his behaviour must have resulted from a hypoglycaemic episode. The Council did not accept his explanation, believing that Mr Dickson’s conduct was conscious and deliberate, and he was dismissed. The EAT upheld the tribunal’s finding that Mr Dickson’s  dismissal was unfair because the Council had refused to properly investigate Mr Dickson’s explanation that his behaviour resulted from a hypoglycaemic episode, but the EAT overturned the tribunal’s findings on disability discrimination.

The fundamental questions were: (i) what was the reason why the claimant was treated in the manner complained of? (ii) what was influencing the mind of the decision-taker? and (iii) did disability form part of the reason for the treatment? In this case there was no evidence that Mr Dickson’s diabetic condition influenced the Council’s thinking at all. The Council had formed a genuine belief that Mr Dickson’s behaviour was conscious and deliberate. It had nothing to do with his disability. It followed that the rejection of the explanation was not because he was disabled or for a reason related to his disability.

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