Employment Case Law Digest - Education 2017

A summary of some of the more interesting and important employment cases concerning schools over the last 12 months.

These cases highlight important legal principles and offer useful guidance to school employers.

City of York v Grosset highlights the risk of dismissal where misconduct could be caused by an underlying disability. Hartley v King Edward VI College considers the calculation of deductions for teacher strike days. Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth is a very important case for school employers, highlighting the risk of breach of contract when suspending a teacher without proper consideration of the reasons for suspension. Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Council considers the sometimes difficult line between absence because of a mental impairment qualifying as disability and a refusal to come back to work because of work-related issues. O'Brien v Bolton St Catherine's Academy highlights the importance of heeding medical information and advice in the case of long term sickness absence and the need for schools to evidence operational and financial reasons to dismiss.

Wrigleys regularly publishes articles on case law and other points of interest for those in the education sector. For example, our recent articles on segregation of boys and girls in a mixed sex school and issues with caretakers' accommodation.

Dismissal of teacher for showing an 18-rated film was discrimination arising from disability

In City of York v Grosset, the EAT held that a teacher had been discriminated against because of something arising from his disability but that his dismissal was fair.

Mr Grosset was Head of English at a maintained school in York. He suffers from cystic fibrosis, a condition which requires him to undertake a daily 3-hour exercise regime to clear his lungs. It was accepted by the employer that his condition is a qualifying disability under the Equality Act.

Mr Grosset's workload at work increased and he suffered stress which worsened his condition.

Mr Grosset showed "Halloween" (an 18-rated film) to a class of 15 and 16 year olds over two lessons. Some members of the class were particularly vulnerable young people. He was suspended and dismissed for gross misconduct for showing the film. At the time of the decision to dismiss, the employer had medical evidence that the misconduct was not caused by the disability.

Mr Grosset brought claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims including a claim for discrimination arising from disability (a section 15 claim). An employment tribunal found that the decision to dismiss was fair as the decision was within the band of reasonable responses based on the evidence available to the employer at the time.

When considering the discrimination claims, the tribunal took into account new medical evidence produced since the dismissal that the misconduct was in fact linked to the disability. The tribunal therefore found that Mr Grosset had been discriminated against as a consequence of something arising from his disability. It also found that the employer had failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments.

The EAT agreed. When considering the discrimination arising from disability claim, the EAT noted that the tribunal had evidence before it which showed that the cystic fibrosis caused the misconduct (as Mr Grosset's stress was a mental impairment linked to the cystic fibrosis). It was irrelevant to the discrimination claim that the employer did not have evidence showing this link at the time of the dismissal.

At the remedies hearing, available here, Mr Grosset was awarded just under £650,000, taking into account earnings and pension losses and the fact that he is unlikely to gain a job at an equivalent...

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