Businesses have seen an increase in cases in labor courts of disability discrimination after hearing fees were abolished and the number of workers willing to bring claims related to mental health problems increased.
In the twelve months to April 2019, incidents of discrimination on the basis of a disability that covers physical or mental health increased by 26 percent to 6,919 from 5,477 the previous year. Another 3,657 cases were filed in the six months ending September 2019, according to Justice Department figures.
Labor claims have increased since mid-2017, when the government eliminated charges of up to £ 1,200 for filing lawsuits. Disability entitlements have recovered to 2013 levels when the fees were introduced.
Disability discrimination is categorized as a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term adverse effect on a worker’s ability to do their job. A claim can also be made if an employer has not made a reasonable adjustment for an employee with a pre-existing condition.
Recent high profile cases include Adam Glover Bailie, a trader who won a disability discrimination case against U.S. food processing company Archer Daniels Midland, UK broker last month after suffering from clinical depression.
He claimed he was brushed aside after he was diagnosed with an illness allegedly due to stress caused by long hours in a low-staffed department. A labor court found that the UK real estate agent had directly discriminated against Mr Glover Bailie, who was responsible for stocks and fixed income, because of his disability.
“We are seeing a steady increase in claims for disability discrimination, and aside from those with physical disabilities, we’ve seen some with mental illnesses,” said Shazia Khan, Irwin Mitchell Employment Partner, who represented Mr. Glover Bailie. “Often times, individuals have a pre-existing condition and go to a job where such conditions are not managed well.”
ADM declined to comment.
Last week, Goldman Sachs also settled a discrimination lawsuit for obstruction of a banker in London who alleged the company failed his condition. 32-year-old Kwasi Afrifa, a former Goldman analyst, had sued the investment bank for allegedly failing to provide workarounds for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and for allegedly pushing him out of his job.
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Goldman and Leigh Day, who represented Mr Afrifa, declined to comment.
Paul Quain, labor attorney at GQ Law, said, “There is some isolated evidence that claims related to mental health problems, including stress and anxiety, are on the rise.”
Ivor Adair, a partner at Fox & Partners law firm, said many labor disputes were resolved before they reached the tribunal stage, so the problem may be bigger than the proposed numbers.
“I think cases have increased due to the elimination of tribunal fees as well as workplace pressures that put a lot of strain on employees, especially those with disabilities.”