Is Dyslexia a Disability Under the Equality Act?

Caragh Bailey
16/02/2022
35
3 min read
Is Dyslexia a Disability Under the Equality Act? A Case Study From Employment Law Friend

Case Ref:
1400822/2019 & 1401665/2020
Case Name:
Ms Z N Clarkson-Palomares v The Secretary of State for Justice
Relates to:
Disability Discrimination
Decision:
Failure to make reasonable adjustments and indirect discrimination partially upheld. Additional complaints, including failure to make reasonable adjustments, indirect discrimination and harassment dismissed.
Award:
£TBC
The Claimant claims;
  • Declarations;
  • Recommendations;
  • Loss of earnings (including pension);
  • Injury to feelings;
  • Aggravated damages;
  • Interest; and
  • ACAS Uplift.

A dyslexic Judge has succeeded in her claim for disability discrimination against the Ministry of Justice. Nadine Clarkson Palomares works as a part time Judge, hearing social security and immigration cases, having been first appointed in 2011.

Judge Palomares brought a claim before an employment tribunal, stating that her dyslexia was a disability, and her employers ought to have provided her with soft ware which would have enabled her to carry out her role. Without this additional support, she faced difficulties in performing her duties and was then unfairly criticised by the Ministry of Justice and subject to criticism and threatened with sanctions.

So, is dyslexia a disability? The Ministry of Justice accepted that Judge Palomares was disabled by virtue of her dyslexia, but they disputed that they had delayed, and in some cases, failed altogether, to provide the aids which she needed to perform her role. They also strongly disputed that she had been harassed or suffered any career detriment or financial loss as a result of any failing (which they disputed) in considering her dyslexia.

Judge Palomares originally requested voice recognition software in 2013, but this was not provided to her until 2018. The tribunal upheld the considerable delay in providing the voice recognition software to Judge Palomares as amounting to a failure to make reasonable adjustments and also indirect discrimination.

Although the Ministry of Justice sought to defend the delay in providing this to her, the tribunal reasoned that the fact it was eventually provided meant that it was an adjustment the Ministry of Justice could make and were willing to make. Bearing in mind the significant difference the equipment made to Judge Palomares’ working life, it was only the delay of several years that was being considered, and that could not be reasonable.

Unfortunately, this delay was followed by a further delay in providing Judge Palomares with training on how to use the equipment, and the tribunal also upheld this as a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Judges are not employees, but office holders, and so are only permitted to bring discrimination claims before employment tribunals, and not the wider variety of complaints most individuals, who are workers or employees, are able to bring.

The tribunal found that much of the difficulty for the Ministry of Justice arose from Judge Palomares’ position as an office holder and the fact that no-one was able to take overall responsibility for the matter, and consider the issues she was raising holistically. Had she been employed by the Ministry of Justice, and had had the same needs and requests, the equipment provided would have come to her much sooner.

However, it is worth noting that the vast majority of the complaints Judge Palomares brought were rejected, and in particular all her complaints based around her receiving negative appraisals and being harassed were thrown out by the tribunal.

Judge Palomares represented herself in the two week trial, and the final liability judgment exceeds 100 pages. Her financial compensation will be decided at a future hearing. She continues to sit as a part time Judge.

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