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The Court of Appeal has upheld EAT and tribunal decisions 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 Court of Appeal upheld EAT and tribunal decisions that there was unlawful direct discrimination because of a perceived disability. The claimant did not have to show she actually had a disability within the EqA.

The employer did not perceive that her hearing impairment had a substantial effect at present. However it was enough that the employer perceived that she had a progressive disability within Schedule 1 paragraph 8 EqA, which could well have a substantial effect in future.

It did not matter whether the employer knew the EqA definition of disability, including paragraph 8. 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.