• Robert Spicer

Disability discrimination: associative: burden of proof

Associative discrimination

Case McCorry and others v McKeith [2017] IRLR 253, Northern Ireland Court of Appeal

Facts M was employed as an advice assistant. She had a disabled daughter who was looked after by a family friend while she was at work. Her employer thought that M’s place was at home. She was told, against her wishes, to be absent from work for some periods to care for her daughter. M was later dismissed for redundancy. She complained of associative direct disability discrimination. The industrial tribunal found that she had established a prima facie case that she had been discriminated against because she had been the primary career of her disabled daughter. The burden of proof therefore shifted to the employer which had not put forward any convincing or coherent explanation for its decision to make her redundant. The employer appealed to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

Decision 1. The appeal was dismissed.

2. There was evidence of a difference in status, a difference in treatment and a reason for differential treatment. In the absence of an adequate explanation, a tribunal could conclude that the employer had committed an unlawful act of associative disability discrimination.

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