In Coleman v Attridge Law & anor (Case C-303/06) the ECJ has confirmed that the Equal Treatment Directive protects an employee who has suffered discrimination on the grounds of her child’s disability.

Ms Coleman resigned from her job as a legal secretary after her employer, Attridge Law, allegedly described her as ‘lazy’ for trying to take time off to care for her disabled child. She claimed that her employer refused to allow her to work from home or work flexible shifts to care for her son. Attridge Law argued that it could not be guilty of disability discrimination since Ms Coleman was not herself disabled, but in line with the Advocate General’s Opinion given earlier this year the ECJ has ruled in favour of employees who have to care for disabled dependents. According to the Court, the Equal Treatment Directive (the purpose of which is to combat all forms of discrimination) applies not to a particular category of person but by reference to the nature of the discrimination.

This ruling is likely to result in its becoming unlawful for companies to discriminate against employees who care for disabled relatives, so-called ‘discrimination by association’.

This matter will now be referred back to the Employment Tribunal for it to apply the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to Ms Coleman’s claim in line with the ECJ’s decision.