Norfolk police take lost disability discrimination case to top court
The case of a police constable who claims Norfolk police discriminated against her because she had hearing problems has gone to one of the country’s top courts.
PC Lisa Coffey was refused a transfer from Wiltshire police in 2013 because the Norfolk force said her hearing was below the medical standards for recruits.
PC Coffey was already serving as a front line officer without problems in Wiltshire but Norfolk police rejected her believing her hearing could get worse, meaning she may need to be put on restricted duties in the future.
Two specialists suggested she should be hired and given a test at work, but police rejected that advice.
PC Coffey then took the force to an employment tribunal in 2016 arguing their rejection of her was disability discrimination.
She won but police contested the ruling and took the case to appeal in December 2017.
The force lost the employment tribunal appeal too but they have now gone a step further and taken the case to the Court of Appeal.
Judges heard the case at a four-hour hearing in London on Wednesday.
Police argued that Ms Coffey did not have a disability and therefore she could not win a claim of disability discrimination.
But the officer successfully brought a claim of being discriminated against for a perceived disability through her tinnitus.
Employment law firm Menzies Law said: “Norfolk Constabulary would have avoided expensive litigation if it had followed the medical advice to assess Ms Coffey’s actual abilities to perform the job.
“By instead relying on an assumption that the condition might deteriorate in the future, Norfolk Constabulary unwittingly discriminated against Ms Coffey.”
The tribunal, which heard the first appeal by police in 2017, found Ms Coffey was treated less favourably because of her condition.
They said: “There is... no other way of looking at it than for the Tribunal to conclude in the absence of any other explanation that the Respondent (Norfolk Police) treated the Claimant (Lisa Coffey) less favourably because of her perceived disability.”
The decision from the Court of Appeal is expected in the coming months.
Norfolk police have been contacted for comment.