Bates Wells takes legal secretary’s disability fight to European Court

Charity specialist Bates Wells & Braithwaite is heading to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after a Croydon employment tribunal ruled that a legal secretary’s disability discrimination case must be heard in Luxembourg.

Partner Lucy McLynn and Cloisters barristers Paul Michell and Declan O’Dempsey are acting pro bono for Sharon Coleman, a former secretary at London firm Attridge Law.

Coleman is claiming constructive dismissal and direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds that she was discriminated against because of her son’s disability.

The case was heard in February in Croydon, and the tribunal handed down its decision at the end of May. It ruled that the case must be referred to the ECJ for clarification of the UK’s disability discrimination legislation, which does not have any specific provisions for carers.

It is believed to be the first time that a UK court has referred a Disability Discrimination Act case to Europe.

“This will certainly have a knock-on effect on other legislation. We think it’s quite big,” said McLynn.

If the ECJ finds that the UK’s disability legislation has been implemented incorrectly, then other pieces of employment legislation may also need to be examined.

The case is not likely to be heard in the ECJ for at least 18 months. Cloisters’ Robin Allen QC will be brought in for the hearing.

Attridge Law instructed Old Square Chambers’ Robert Moretto.

The firm declined to comment on the case.