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Disabled woman secures £125,000 in landmark discrimination case

Disabled woman secures £125,000 in landmark discrimination case
23rd April 2010 developer

A disabled woman who secured a ground-breaking discrimination ruling from the House of Lords is to receive £125,000 in compensation.

Elizabeth Boyle, from Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland, had alleged disability and sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair selection for redundancy against her former employer, SCA Packaging.

A vital ruling in the case by the House of Lords last July also meant that more disabled people with fluctuating conditions would be protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The DDA says that someone with a condition that does not currently have a substantial effect on them but varies in severity should still be viewed as disabled if they are “likely” to become substantially affected again in the future.

But the Law Lords ruled that this use of “likely” meant “could well happen”, rather than the previously accepted definition of “more probable than not”.

Boyle had worked for SCA Packaging for 32 years. She had developed vocal nodules, which she helped to manage by speaking quietly, limiting the use of her voice, and other measures.

But her employer decided to remove partitions near her desk, even though it meant she would have to speak more loudly and risk her condition returning.

In October 2001, she began proceedings under the DDA, alleging she was being discriminated against through her employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Seven months later, she was made redundant and brought further claims, including victimisation under the DDA.

The company argued Boyle was not disabled as her condition no longer had an adverse effect on her life.

But after ruling in Boyle’s favour last July, and finding that she was a disabled person under the DDA, the Law Lords referred the case back to an industrial tribunal.

Boyle and SCA Packaging then agreed on the financial settlement without the case needing to be heard, although the company did not admit liability.

Boyle said: “This has been a nine year battle that caused so much stress to me and my family.

“However, because of the ruling made in my case, other disabled people can benefit too.”

Eileen Lavery, head of strategic enforcement for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said the case had “broadened the protection” to disabled people under the DDA.

She said the Lords ruling was “particularly important” for people with conditions that can be controlled by treatment, or fluctuating conditions that have temporarily ceased to have an effect but are likely to recur, such as arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.