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On a claim under s.15 Equality Act, the disability-related reason need not be the only, or even the main, reason for the unfavourable treatment.

A nurse with knee arthritis was applying for a new job. Her prospective employer got references from two previous employers. One reference raised doubts about her general capabilities. The other reference focused on health and was held to be discriminatory.

Despite the first reference, the EAT held the tribunal was entitled to find that the discriminatory reference had ‘more than a minor influence’ on the prospective employer’s decision to withdraw the job offer.

The withdrawal of the offer was held to be not proportionate, eg further enquiries could have been made of OH or others, so there was unlawful disability discrimination contrary to s.15 EqA.

If the tribunal found at remedy stage that the first reference alone would have meant the employer felt unable to employ her, that could however affect her compensation.

The previous employer who gave the discriminatory reference was liable under s.15, as well as the prospective employer who withdrew the job offer.

The case is South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust v Lee, 2018, EAT

More: Discrimination arising from disability>Some decided cases.