Coleman v Attridge Law

The European Court of Justice has decided in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law that disability anti-discrimination legislation covers able-bodied employees “by association”.

Sharon Coleman, a legal secretary with a disabled son born in 2002, claimed direct discrimination and harassment by her employer, as a result of which she felt forced to volunteer for redundancy in 2005. She claimed that her employer refused to allow her to return to her previous job when she came back from maternity leave, refused to allow her to work flexibly; and subjected her to abusive and insulting comments about her child.

The tribunal referred the matter to the Court of Justice to ask whether the directive on equal treatment covered not just disabled employees, but also employees treated less favourably because someone for whom they cared was disabled.

And the ECJ said that it should be interpreted as protecting employees who, although not themselves disabled, nevertheless suffered discrimination or harassment because they were associated with a disabled person. It also said the same with regard to harassment.

The decision has potential ramifications for employees bringing claims under other discrimination legislation, such as sexual orientation, religion and age.

We will summarise the decision in more detail in a future edition of LELR.

For a copy of the decision, go to:

For a copy of the press release, go to: