Saturday, 19 July 2008

ECJ Establishes Right to Claim Discrimination by Association


Reported via Labourstart this morning is a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the Coleman case.

I've taken the text below direcctly from the news article just to save time - thank you LabourStart.

Ms Coleman who worked as a legal secretary in London resigned from the Attridge Law partnership and claimed constructive unfair dismissal.

She justified this with allegations against her employer that included an unsupportive and discriminatory attitude with regard to Ms Coleman's needing to care for her disabled child, a comment by a partner that her "fucking child was always fucking sick", and that her requests for time off were treated differently from other colleagues with medical problems.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice followed a legal opinion of its advocate general establishing that disability discrimination is illegal not just when directed at disabled people but also when applied to people who care for them.

The judgement of the ECJ will need to be interpreted into UK law. The ECJ signalled that this principle should be extended to all carers.

If the government interprets the ruling literally then employment protection will only be extended to parents of disabled children.

The article ends with a query however, as to whether the government will interpret the ruling broadly enough to enable claims at the Employment Tribunal.

Your thoughts?




Del said...


I can't see Gordon Brown and his henchmen and women being happy about this.

They'd rather give workers the bogus 'right' of workers being able to 'request' something i.e. work flexibly rather than an absolute right to protection as in this case.

This is excellent news though and I really hope that, regardless of the government's approach, workers can use the ECJ judgement to extend protection from disability discrimination to carers.

This makes absolute sense and the case from which this decision arose demonstrates that prejudice is rife against carers.

I'll follow this one with interest.

Del A

Neil said...

I knew that a couple of UNITE/T&G cases were waiting on Coleman but to be honest I thought the Advocate General would have gone in the other direction and not created a new legal principle.

Like your last post I can't see the government being happy with this as it bucks the trend of a focus on the employer's right to tell a worker to f-off.

Worse still as the Single Equality Bill wends its way through Parliamenty process it establishes a wholly new legal right that the government and the ECHR probably did not want to establish.

By the way, what exactly is the ECHR for?

You have that that career civil servant Nicola Brewer essentially blaming women for wanting decent maternity leave rights and that coconut (sorry to use the phrase - but with that middle class wanker it is appropriate) Phillips claiming that Cameron (a white Etonian) is right to finger black men for their role in causing knife crime through parental absenteeissm).

If I believed in conspiracies I would believe that the destruction of the CRE, EOC and DRA waas about creating a tame poodle for either New Labour and Conservative governments.


Ian Manborde said...

Hi TGWURep (your identity is safe with me),

I think you quite rightly raise a number of pertinent issues about the nature and future of the ECHR.

Last week I delivered the equality reps network launch event on behalf of the GFTU and many colleagues there expressed bewilderment about the phrases used by Brewer. Not surprisingly either as the TU movement has done a fantastic job in being solidly behind progress in this area.

Like you I share reservations about Phillips, as does a large proportion of his BME staff.

With children in private education and a solid, elitist career in the media most decent people do not understand what such a person can bring to the discussion about fairness and equality in a modern society.

Like you many activists I know do wonder what the ECHR is for and whether it can be relied upon to act as an independent, forceful agent for change.

The story to-date is not good, let's hope the next chapter is better.



Jaswant said...

Hi Ian,

This is an interesting outcome.

I remember you mentioning this last time we met at Esher.

I too share a concern as to the government's approach here.

Ironically although the DDA was originally legislation passed under the Tories the government has the opportunity to give it some real teeth.

Pity though, New Labour are a bit too spineless to offer something real teeth.

Hope to see you soon.