Depression and the Disability Discrimination Act


A barrister, referred to as ‘J’, brought a disability discrimination claim against law firm DLA Piper when it revoked its offer of employment after she disclosed that she had suffered from depression. DLA Piper contended that the position had been withdrawn, along with other job offers, because of a recruitment freeze.
The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that J's depression did not amount to a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) . J took her case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), which ruled that the ET had not applied the correct test to determine whether or not she was disabled. As a result, the case was sent back to be heard by a different ET.  
In order to bring a claim for disability discrimination, J would first need to prove that she had a disability as defined by the DDA. This can be a physical or mental impairment, but it must have ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on a person's ability to carry out everyday activities. This is particularly difficult for those who have conditions that are not readily apparent, such as depression, bi-polar disorder and anxiety problems.
A fresh hearing will now consider whether J's depression does amount to a disability for the purposes of the DDA. If it does, the ET will then need to determine whether it was on account of J revealing that she had a history of depression that DLA Piper withdrew the job offer or whether is was as a result of a recruitment freeze as the firm claims.
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