Legal News

The EAT has upheld a tribunal decision that direct discrimination because the employer perceived the claimant to have a disability within the Equality Act is unlawful.

A constable applied for transfer to another area. She had a hearing impairment which did not affect her ability to operate as a constable, and her hearing levels were said to be stable. However, the Norfolk Constabulary to which she wanted to transfer turned her down because it perceived she might need to be put on restricted duties now or in future.

In Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey , the EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision that there was unlawful direct discrimination because of a perceived disability, or perceived potential disability. The claimant did not have to show she actually had a disability within the EqA. The EAT said a perceived potential disability – ie a perception that effects could well become substantial in future – would be sufficient.

It did not matter whether the employer knew the EqA definition of disability. The question was whether it perceived the features set out in the disability definition to be met.

See the full case at

More: Perceived disability>Basics of perceived disability discrimination – the Coffey case. (Also much of the Perceived disability page is new, discussing implications of the case.)