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2016, Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. Full judgment: www.bailii.org/nie/cases/NICA/2016/25.html
The court overturned a Northern Irish industrial tribunal decision because the tribunal had not made appropriate adjustments for the claimant's Asperger's Syndrome. The tribunal should have paid attention to the Equal Treatment Bench Book. An early 'ground rules' case management session should have been convened to meet the specific challenges of his condition.
The claimant had Asperger's Syndrome. He made claims including disability and race discrimination to an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland. The claimant failed to comply with various tribunal requests, and eventually the tribunal refused an adjournment and proceeded to hear the case in the claimant's absence. It decided in favour of the employer.
Held: the tribunal decision should be overturned, as the tribunal had not acted fairly.
The Court of Appeal set out various principles, including:
The procedure in the current case was unfair. The tribunal should have been recognised the claimant had a mental health disability, and as soon as this emerged enquiries should have been made as to whether reaonable adjustments to the process were necessary. In particular an early 'ground rules' case management session should have been convened to meet the specific challenges of his condition.
The claimant' representatives here had not requested adjustments to the process. However, the Court of Appeal said the duty is was on the tribunal to make its own decision in these matters. There were clear indications of observed agitation and frustration on the part of the claimant, and these should have put the tribunal on notice of the need to investigate the precise nature and diagnosis of his condition. "That said, this case highlights perhaps the need for there to be better training of both judiciary and the legal profession in the needs of the disabled."
It was also a matter of great concern that the tribunal did not refer to the ETBB. It should be part of the culture of these hearings.
Appearing in court
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Last updated 22nd October, 2016