The claimant in Madani Schools Federation v Uddin was training as a PE teacher via the "assessment based option". He had had various periods off sick due to his work-related stress disability, as well as a road accident. He was dismissed after several unsuccessful attempts to provide him with a phased return to work. In the absence of a credible explanation as to why he could not return, the Tribunal found his dismissal to be unfair.
The Tribunal also found that the claimant had suffered disability discrimination under section 15 of the Equality Act – unfavourable treatment "because of something arising in consequence of" the claimant's disability which could not be justified. The Tribunal upheld a number of complaints of unfavourable treatment by the school, including not providing him with a timetable; summoning him to a disciplinary meeting; requiring him to undertake non-contractual duties; suspending him from work and prolonging that suspension; and finally dismissing him.
The EAT allowed the appeal against the disability discrimination decision – the Tribunal had not followed the proper approach to causation by addressing the two essential (and separate) questions set out in Risby v London Borough of Waltham Forest:
- What was the "something" which caused the unfavourable treatment? This involves an examination of the conscious or unconscious thought processes of the alleged discriminator. The "something" does not have to be the sole or main cause of the unfavourable treatment but it must have a significant influence on it.
- Did the "something" arise in consequence of the disability? The more links in the chain between the "something" and the disability, the harder it is likely to be to establish the necessary connection.
In Uddin, the links between the claimant's disability and the various complaints of unfavourable treatment were not at all obvious. The Tribunal had considered causation in relation to all the complaints together, rather than looking at each of them separately and asking what was the subjective reason in the mind of the representative of the school in relation to each episode.