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CJEU - C 303/06 / Opinion

S. Coleman v Attridge Law and Steve Law

Deciding Body type:
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding Body:
Opinion of Advocate General
Type:
Opinion
Decision date:
31/01/2008
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 AG considered that "Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation protects people who, although not themselves disabled, suffer direct discrimination and/or harassment in the field of employment and occupation because they are associated with a disabled person."
 
Interpretation of article(s) and implications for the resolution of the case:
 
The AG considered that “even if we were to accept the argument of the United Kingdom Government that discrimination by association is clearly outside the scope of the prohibition of indirect discrimination that does not mean in any way that it also falls outside the scope of the prohibition of direct discrimination and harassment. On the contrary, including discrimination by association in the scope of the prohibition of direct discrimination and harassment is the natural consequence of the exclusionary mechanism through which the prohibition of this type of discrimination operates.(para 19) … It is not necessary for someone who is the object of discrimination to have been mistreated on account of ‘her disability’. It is enough if she was mistreated on account of ‘disability’. Thus, one can be a victim of unlawful discrimination on the ground of disability under the Directive without being disabled oneself; what is important is that that disability – in this case the disability of Ms Coleman’s son – was used as a reason to treat her less well.” (para 23)