JP Morgan Europe Ltd v Chweidan 2011 AER 285

Mr Chweidan suffered a skiing accident in 2007.  The injuries he sustained constituted a disability.  When he returned to work on reduced hours, his bonus for 2007 was considerably smaller than it had been for 2006.  He alleged that the reason for this was disability related discrimination of him by JP Morgan who in turn claimed that the lower bonus was due to the company’s worsening performance. After lodging a complaint before the Tribunal about his bonus being too small because of disability or for a reason relating to disability, he was subsequently made redundant. He then claimed that he had been dismissed because he was not able to put in the same working hours as his colleagues due to his disability.  JP Morgan denied this, claiming that he had been selected because his client base was too narrow and his financial performance was too dependent on this narrow base.   

A tribunal upheld both his bonus and redundancy claims on the grounds of direct discrimination.  It rejected his claims of disability related discrimination on the ground that a non-disabled person would have been treated similarly had he or she been unable to put in the hours necessary to widen his or her client base.  On appeal by JP Morgan the appeal tribunal held that the tribunal’s reasoning on direct discrimination could not stand given that it accepted with regard to disability related discrimination that any other non disabled employee with a narrow client base would have been similarly treated.  However, they remitted the matter to the tribunal to reconsider whether there was evidence that the employer’s actions were directly discriminatory.   

On further appeal by JP Morgan, the Court of Appeal held that there was absolutely no basis for the remission as there was no basis for upholding the discrimination claim regarding his dismissal.  The Tribunal had erred in finding any direct discrimination to do with his dismissal or his bonus claims. There were reasons for Mr Chweidan’s treatment and these were related to his disability nor because of that. JP Morgan had not committed any act of direct discrimination.  

Key point:  The tests for direct discrimination and disability related discrimination are confusing even for a Tribunal.  If there are reasons for an employee’s treatment which are reasons connected with the employee’s disability and not because of the disability itself then a claim for direct disability discrimination cannot succeed.