Rooney v Leicester City Centre Council

15th October 2021 Employment

Background Facts

Miss Rooney worked for Leicester City Council as a Childcare Social Worker. Her employment ended when she resigned on 29 October 2018. Miss Rooney presented a claim for constructive dismissal and unpaid holiday pay and her solicitors stated in the claim that she had made a protected disclosure, and that she accepted that her work-related stress and menopause symptoms did not amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. As Miss Rooney was unaware that the solicitor had pleaded her claim in this way, on 29 January 2019 (acting for herself) Miss Rooney presented a second claim to the Tribunal.

The second claim was for disability and discrimination, harassment, and victimization with regard to the Council’s treatment of her in relation to her menopausal symptoms. 

Miss Rooney cited that she had suffered from physical, mental, and psychological effects of the menopause for two years, including but not limited to insomnia which resulted in her experiencing fatigue and tiredness, depression, anxiety, light headedness, confusion, palpitations, hot flushes, memory loss and migraines. Miss Rooney explained that all of these symptoms had a negative impact on her life to the extent that she was mentally and physically struggling to cope. Miss Rooney was prescribed hormone replacement therapy by her GP, and she was under the care of a specialist menopausal clinic.

Tribunal Process

The two claims were considered together at a case management preliminary hearing. Miss Rooney applied to amend the first claim to remove the statement that she accepted that she was not disabled. Miss Rooney was ordered by the Tribunal to provide further particulars of her discrimination claims. A further preliminary hearing was fixed by the Tribunal to determine the following:-

(a) if Miss Rooney’s claims for constructive dismissal, disability and sex discrimination should be struck for having no reasonable prospects of success;

(b) the claims should be allowed to proceed only if Miss Rooney paid a deposit order; and

(c) if the claims were allowed to proceed, Miss Rooney had a disability at the relevant time.

The preliminary hearing was held on 1 November 2019 and a judgment was sent to the parties confirming that Miss Rooney was not suffering from a disability in relation to her menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression and her disability discrimination claim was dismissed. Furthermore, Miss Rooney’s sex discrimination claim was struck out for having no reasonable prospect of success.

Miss Rooney appealed against the dismissal and strike out of her claims to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Decision

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has allowed the appeal and has permitted the claims to be reconsidered by a differently constituted Tribunal.

What does this mean?

This case is a further example of the difficulties faced by menopausal women and the challenges they face in the workplace that can arise in establishing that their symptoms amount to a disability. In this particular case it is interesting to note that the Employment Appeals Tribunal specifically noted that it was difficult to see how the previous Tribunal could have concluded that the effects that Miss Rooney had been suffering with in relation to the menopause and the day-to-day activities that she could subsequently undertake were only minor or trivial.

It is interesting to note that while the number of Employment Tribunal decisions relating to menopause discrimination is increasing, the case of Miss Rooney is only the second Appellant decision to date.

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Laura Wharton is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Employment department

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