Manager's 'Limitations' Comment Leads to Disability Discrimination Finding

Employers should take careful note of a case in which a manager's reference to the 'limitations' of a bar attendant who suffered from osteoarthritis was adjudged to be unfavourable treatment giving rise to disability discrimination (Taylor v Hoddom Castle Coach House Ltd).

Osteoarthritis in the woman's right arm and upper spine meant that she found many everyday tasks difficult, including raising her arm to wash her hair. Her home was fitted with grab rails and she was incapable of heavy lifting. At work, she could not manage trays loaded with plates and empty glasses or hoover at the end of her shifts.

After she complained to her supervisor that she was not being offered enough shifts, he mentioned that her limitations had to be taken into account. When she queried whether that was a reference to her disability, he denied that it was. He said that the difficulty arose from her wish to work shortened shifts and the need to factor other staff into the rota. She subsequently resigned.

Upholding her disability discrimination claim, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that she had suffered unfavourable treatment arising from the use of the word 'limitations'. She wanted to work shortened shifts because of her disability and the resulting reduction in the number of shifts offered to her also amounted to unfavourable treatment.

The ET noted that she worked for the employer for 40 hours in total and had since found alternative employment. She was awarded overall compensation of £1,140, that sum representing three weeks' lost wages and £900 for injury to her feelings.