In J v DLA Piper UK LLP, J applied for and was offered a job with DLA Piper UK LLP, subject to completing a medical questionnaire. Prior to completing the questionnaire, J informed an HR Manager at DLA about her history of depression, which included 12 visits to a GP regarding symptoms of depression, being signed off work and consultations with an occupational health doctor and consultant psychiatrist over the course of the previous four years. A few days later, DLA informed J that her offer had been withdrawn due to a recruitment freeze caused by the credit crunch.

J complained to an employment tribunal that, in withdrawing her job offer, DLA had unlawfully discriminated against her contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The tribunal considered whether J was “disabled” within the meaning of the DDA. The tribunal held that J was not disabled on the basis that she did not suffer from a suffi ciently well-defi ned impairment. J appealed.

The EAT allowed the appeal, holding that the tribunal should have considered fi rst whether the claimant’s ability to carry out normal day-to day-activities is adversely affected. If the tribunal fi nds it is substantially affected then it will in most cases follow that the claimant is suffering from a debilitating condition.  

The EAT noted that there is a blurred distinction between symptoms of low mood and anxiety which are caused by “clinical depression” and those which derive from “adverse life events”. However, the EAT stated that if a claimant’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities has been substantially impaired by symptoms characteristic of depression for 12 months or more, a tribunal would be likely to conclude that they were suffering from clinical depression rather than adverse life events.