Woman Wins Landmark Legal Ruling

Employment Tribunal


A woman has won a landmark legal battle over discrimination after a court agreed she had been forced to resign from her job because she has a disabled son.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg supported Sharon Coleman's claim that she suffered "discrimination by association" in breach of EU rules.

The landmark ruling declared that an EU Directive banning employment discrimination on grounds of disability is not limited to disabled people themselves, but covers their carers as well. The verdict effectively gives new rights to millions of carers.

Ms Coleman took legal action after claiming she was forced to leave her job with law firm Attridge Law because she was not allowed as much flexibility in her work as parents of other children were. She was already working for the firm when she gave birth to a disabled son in 2002. He suffers from serious respiratory problems, including apnoeic attacks, an involuntary halt to breathing.

As primary carer Ms Coleman wanted flexible working arrangements, but accepted voluntary redundancy in March 2005 and began a claim for constructive dismissal five months later.

An Employment Tribunal hearing the case decided to refer it to the European Court for a ruling on whether EU discrimination laws covering the disabled could also apply to people not themselves disabled, but closely associated with a disabled person.

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