Tribunal was wrong to strike out menopause disability and sex discrimination claims
The EAT has held that the employment tribunal erred in striking out the claimant's menopause disability and sex discrimination claims in Rooney v Leicester City Council.
The claimant was employed as a childcare social worker until her resignation at the end of October 2019. Solicitors instructed by the claimant presented a claim for constructive dismissal amongst other things. The claim specifically stated that the claimant accepted that her work-related stress and menopause symptoms did not amount to a disability. The claimant was unaware that her claim had been pleaded in this way and subsequently presented a second claim to the tribunal for disability and sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation with regard to the Council's treatment of her in relation to her menopausal symptoms. She claimed that she had suffered from the physical, mental and psychological effects of the menopause for two years. These had had a negative impact on her life to the extent that she had struggled physically and mentally to cope.
The two claims were considered together at a case management preliminary hearing. The claimant was ordered to provide further particulars of her discrimination claim. She did so and a further preliminary hearing was fixed by the tribunal to determine whether her claims for constructive dismissal and disability and sex discrimination should be struck out for having no reasonable prospects of success. The claimant's claims were struck out; the tribunal decided that she was not suffering from a disability in relation to her menopausal symptoms.
The EAT remitted the claims to be reconsidered by a differently constituted tribunal, holding that the employment tribunal erred in law in finding that the claimant was not a disabled person and in striking out her discrimination claims without adequately analysing them.
Take note: This is the latest in a growing body of case law dealing with the menopause and demonstrates the difficulty faced by those experiencing the menopause in establishing that their symptoms amount to a disability. In the meantime we are awaiting the outcome of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into workplace issues surrounding the menopause which aimed to examine the extent of discrimination faced by those experiencing menopausal symptoms in the workplace and to investigate how the Government might offer better support.
For further detail on the law surrounding the menopause and possible future developments please see our recent bulletin 'Menopause: the next protected characteristic?'. We also offer training and help with developing a menopause policy. For more information on this please see 'The menopause: legal and practical considerations'.