Reasonable adjustments for fair hearing

Posted: 22nd February 2016

DiscriminationEmployment Tribunals frequently deal with allegations of disability discrimination in the workplace and are themselves under a duty to ensure that their procedures match up to the requirements of equality rules. In one case, those exacting standards were found to have been met in a case involving an autistic litigant.

The man, an agency worker, had lodged complaints of discrimination and unfair dismissal against his employer. The employment judge who was considering his case was astute to the need for adjustments to be made in order to ensure that he could understand and fairly participate in the proceedings.

His medical records were obtained and the employer’s legal team agreed to give him a written list of questions which he would be asked in cross-examination. However, his request to be permitted to answer those questions at home and in writing was refused. He was also denied an adjournment in order to obtain an expert report in respect of appropriate adjustments and his claims were ultimately dismissed on the basis that they had no reasonable prospect of success.

In rejecting his appeal against that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the adjustments made by the judge were reasonable. He had rightly considered issues of proportionality, expense and the undesirability of delay. The judge was commended for his proactive efforts at an early stage to ascertain what reasonable adjustments were necessary.