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“Meltdowns” – temper, not disability

An Employment Tribunal (ET) has rejected a claim brought by an employee who claimed he had suffered discrimination arising from disability.

It was accepted that Mr McQueen, a registration officer employed by the General Optical Council, had conditions that amounted to disabilities under the Equality Act 2010. Such conditions included Dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, left-sided hearing loss and neurodiversity. Due to his disabilities, Mr McQueen had undergone workplace assessments, which revealed that he would raise his voice and use inappropriate speech and tone when faced with a stressful situation. On two separate occasions, Mr McQueen had displayed aggressive outbursts, described by the ET as a “meltdown”.

In June 2017, Mr McQueen was disciplined on a performance issue. Subsequently, Mr McQueen brought claims against his employer in August 2018 and February 2019, stating that he had been subjected to unfavourable treatment because of something arising in consequence of disability.

After considering the medical evidence, the ET dismissed Mr McQueen’s claim. They noted that his mannerisms were habits and that his aggressive outbursts were due to his short temper and dislike of authority – not because of his disabilities.

Mr McQueen appealed, arguing that the disability did not need to be the sole or primary reason for the “something” that arises as a consequence of it; it need only be trivial.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the appeal but did note that the structuring of the ET’s decision was unusual, and the ET ought to have asked itself the following questions in order to structure its decision so that a reader can understand clearly what question is being asked and answered at each stage of the analysis:

  • What are the disabilities?
  • What are their effects?
  • What unfavourable treatment is alleged in time and proved?
  • Was that unfavourable treatment “because of” an effect or effects of the disabilities?