Plot twist: dismissal for showing 18-rated film to 15-16 year olds was disability discrimination

Published on: 12/01/2017


The case of City of York Council v Grosset concerned a teacher who had cystic fibrosis. The Claimant complained to the head teacher that his workload was unmanageable but no action was taken to try and reduce the Claimant’s workload.

Shortly after the Claimant was signed off work with stress, the school discovered that the Claimant had previously shown the 18-rated film, Halloween, to a class of vulnerable 15 -16 year olds. The school followed its disciplinary procedure and dismissed the Claimant for gross misconduct.

The Claimant brought unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims but only the latter was upheld by the tribunal. The Council appealed to the EAT.

Having considered the medical evidence available to both the tribunal and the EAT, the EAT found that at the time the Claimant showed the film to his pupils, he was suffering from an impaired mental state. His mental state was induced by stress which was a consequence of his disability. The EAT rejected the school’s submission that the Claimant’s dismissal was necessary to protect pupils and maintain disciplinary standards. The decision to dismiss was not justified and was, therefore, discriminatory.

This case is a useful reminder to employers of the difficulty in justifying discrimination arising from a disability. What may appear as a tenuous link between the employee’s misconduct and his or her disability may lead to a successful disability discrimination claim.  Employers are encouraged to seek advice when faced with such issues.


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