17 July 2008

Carer mother wins employment case

A British woman has won a landmark legal case which gives carers the same rights against employment discrimination as disabled people.

The European Court of Justice ruled Sharon Coleman suffered discrimination by association over her resignation from her legal secretary role in 2005.

She left London firm Attridge Law as she was not allowed flexibility to care for her son, who has hearing problems.

The court ruled primary care givers were entitled to equal treatment.

Employment and discrimination barrister Ed Williams, of London law firm Cloisters, said: "The significance of this ruling cannot be overstated.

"There are literally millions of carers in the UK and the rest of the EU who now have greater protection against discrimination."

'Unwanted conduct'

Previously the Advocate-General had agreed that Ms Coleman suffered "discrimination by association".

In its ruling the European court said the prohibition of direct discrimination "is not limited only to people who are disabled".

It found the treatment of Ms Coleman amounted to harassment and discrimination.

The legal secretary claimed her former employers described her as "lazy" for wanting time off to care for her son Oliver, who was born in 2002.

She said she was not allowed to work from home or work flexible hours.

Oliver suffers from hearing problems, and serious respiratory problems, including apnoeic attacks - an involuntary halt to breathing.

She also said she was forced to take voluntary redundancy because she was not allowed as much flexibility in her work as parents of other children.

She began a claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination five months after her resigning.

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