At the end of January, the Advocate General gave his opinion in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law and anor. (Case C-303/06). The case concerns Sharon Coleman, who resigned from her job as a legal secretary after her employers, Attridge Law, allegedly described her as ‘lazy’ for trying to take time off to care for her disabled child.

Coleman also claimed that her employer had refused to allow her to work from home or work flexible shifts to care for her son. Attridge Law had argued that it could not be guilty of disability discrimination since Mrs Coleman was not herself disabled but, at the ECJ, the Advocate General gave his opinion in favour of employees who also have to care for disabled dependents.

The ECJ is not obliged to follow the opinion when it rules later in the year but, if it does, the case may result in it becoming unlawful for companies to discriminate against employees who care for a disabled relative or friend, so-called ‘discrimination by association’. The decision may also result in such discrimination becoming unlawful in the fields of sex and age etc.