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Teacher with cystic fibrosis has discrimination ruling upheld

SAM TOBIN reports from the High Court

AN ENGLISH teacher with cystic fibrosis who was discriminated against by his employer won the final round of a long-running legal battle at the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Philip Grosset became head of English at the Joseph Rowntree School in New Earswick, outside York, and “succeeded in turning around the fortunes of the department,” which achieved its best-ever GCSE results in 2013.

But a new headteacher who “had not been briefed” about Mr Grosset’s disability increased his workload, introducing an “innovation” called a “focus fortnight” designed to encourage “greater reflection” within the department.

The Court of Appeal said that the measure was “intended to be supportive” to Mr Grosset but in actual fact “added to the work pressures upon him.”

Lord Justice Sales said Mr Grosset was unable to absorb the increased workload due to a “time-consuming exercise regime he has to pursue to keep his disease under control.”

Mr Grosset asked the school to consider “a reduction or prioritisation of his workload,” but the school would not offer a regular reduction.

In October 2013, Mr Grosset’s “lung function had dropped to an all-time low,” leaving him facing “the frightening prospect of needing to have a double lung transplant.”

He was sacked after it was discovered that he had shown 18-rated horror film Halloween to a class of 15- and 16-year-olds, which he said was a mistake made under considerable stress caused by his poor health.

Mr Grosset was awarded £180,000 compensation and £208,000 in pension entitlements after the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld an earlier ruling that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his disability.

The Court of Appeal has upheld that ruling and City of York Council confirmed it would not be taking the case any further.

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney told the Star that its lawyers had “represented a hardworking and dedicated disabled teacher who, due to a one-off act of misjudgement, lost his job.

“His condition was exacerbated by huge workload and stress. The school did nothing to address these issues despite our member’s repeated requests.”

Mr Courtney said the case was “important in establishing the law on disability discrimination” and meant that schools “need to make reasonable adjustments for disabled teachers.”


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