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Negative reference amounted to disability discrimination

In Pnaiser v NHS England & Another, the Claimant, a manager at Coventry City Council was disabled. Following extended sickness absences, she was made redundant in March 2013. She signed a settlement agreement which included an agreed employment reference which was to be provided to prospective employers.

The Claimant applied for a position with NHS England in July 2013 and a reference was requested from Coventry City Council but a negative reference was provided which referred to her sickness absences. NHS England withdrew the job offer.

The Claimant brought a claim for discrimination arising from disability under s.15 of the Equality Act 2010. However, her claim failed as she had not established a prima facie case of discrimination sufficient to shift the burden of proof to her employer.

She appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The Tribunal had applied an impermissibly high hurdle in requiring her to prove that the only inference that could be drawn was a discriminatory one. The Tribunal’s reasoning was unsupported by the evidence and contrary to the evidence and the findings. Her claim succeeded on the basis that the negative reference referred to her sickness absences which were related to her disability. 

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. Knight Polson Limited trading as QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the contents of the above article, please do not hesitate to contact us on  or 023 8064 4822.


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