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Employment Law Updates
When taking into account whether a person is disabled, should the focus be upon the cause of the person's symptoms or upon their effect i.e. is it the disease or is it the effect of the disease. The conclusion of Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Ltd was the effect.
This case related to the difficulties surrounding obesity and how it should be treated
for the purpose of disability discrimination. The appellant weighed 137kg (over 21st)
and suffered from a wide range of symptoms associated with obesity. The INITIAL employment
tribunal concluded that he was not disabled within the legal definition on the basis
that the medical evidence revealed no physical or mental cause of the symptoms, other
The above was later rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (ETA) where the Honourable Mr Justice Langstaff stated that in such cases the first question is:
1 ‘does he/she have an impairment’ and
2 whether that impairment is ‘described as physical or mental’.
The cause is only relevant insofar as it remains open to a tribunal, on the evidence, to find that a person does not suffer from a disability if it has no recognised cause. Justice Langstaff refused to accept that obesity is a disability it its own right, but stated that obesity ‘may make it more likely that someone is disabled’.