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CJEU - C 303/06 / Judgment

S. Coleman v Attridge Law and Steve Law

Deciding Body type:
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding Body:
European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber)
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
17/07/2008
Key facts of the case:
 
The case involved a reference regarding Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. Ms Coleman, worked from 2001 as legal secretary for Attridge Law, a firm of solicitors in London, where Mr Steve Law was a partner. In 2002 she gave birth to a son who is disabled; he suffers from bronchomalacia and congenital laryngomalacia. She is his primary carer. On 4 March 2005 the claimant accepted voluntary redundancy and, accordingly, stopped working for Attridge Law. On 30 August 2005 she brought a claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination against her former employers, arguing that they treated her less favourably than employees with non-disabled children and subjected her to conduct that created a hostile atmosphere for her. The national tribunal asked whether the prohibition of discrimination contained in the Directive covers cases where an employee is treated less favourably than her colleagues because she is associated with a disabled person although not herself disabled.
 
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
 
The ECJ ruled that the Directive was applicable to the case of someone associated with a disabled person and not disabled herself.
 
Interpretation of article(s) and implications for the resolution of the case:
 
The ECJ ruled that Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, and, in particular, Articles 1 and 2(1) and (2)(a) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition of direct discrimination laid down by those provisions is not limited only to people who are themselves disabled. Where an employer treats an employee who is not himself disabled less favourably than another employee is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation, and it is established that the less favourable treatment of that employee is based on the disability of his child, whose care is provided primarily by that employee, such treatment is contrary to the prohibition of direct discrimination laid down by Article 2(2)(a).
 
Directive 2000/78, and, in particular, Articles 1 and 2(1) and (3) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition of harassment laid down by those provisions is not limited only to people who are themselves disabled. Where it is established that the unwanted conduct amounting to harassment which is suffered by an employee who is not himself disabled is related to the disability of his child, whose care is provided primarily by that employee, such conduct is contrary to the prohibition of harassment laid down by Article 2(3).