The case of Morgan v Buckinghamshire Council.
An employer acted fairly when it dismissed an employee for her conduct that was influenced by her disability. In addition, the dismissal was capable of objective justification and therefore the dismissal was not discriminatory.
Ms Morgan was a supervising social worker in the respondent’s fostering team. The tribunal found her to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 due to various conditions, including autism and dyslexia.
Ms Morgan was dismissed for her conduct in giving gifts to a child for whom she was responsible without authority from her manager, and because of what was considered inappropriate content of a case note she had written.
The Employment Tribunal found that Ms Morgan was fairly dismissed. Ms Morgan appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
The appeal was dismissed. The tribunal properly found that the respondent reasonably formed the view that Ms Morgan had breached professional boundaries, and that it could not be confident that she would not repeat that conduct if she was not dismissed. The tribunal’s decision included a finding that the respondent reasonably concluded that Ms Morgan knew that she needed prior authority for the proposed gifts, and that a breach was a potentially serious matter for which she could be dismissed.
The tribunal also found that whilst the dismissal was for conduct relating to Ms Morgan’s disabilities, it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The aim in these circumstances being the maintenance of professional boundaries to protect vulnerable children.
This case goes to show that an employer can dismiss an employee for conduct which results from a disability so long as the dismissal is capable of objective justification. In each case, it is for the tribunal to balance the reasonable needs of the organisation against the discriminatory effect of the employer’s actions on the employee.
Cases involving disabled (or potentially disabled) employees need to be dealt with carefully in the context of the specific circumstances, and early advice should be sought to help protect your organisation.