Rachel Worsley | 19/08/2023
In both cases, the autistic people involved were diagnosed with Asperger’s. However, in line with Neurodiversity Media’s language guidelines, we will refer to them as autistic.
Case 1 - The Government Legal Service v Brookes
An autistic woman, Terri Brookes, applied for the role as a trainee solicitor at the Government Legal Service (GLS) in the UK.
The application process involved her undertaking a multiple choice “Situational Judgement Test” (SJT) as well as further tests and interviews.
Ms Brookes told the recruitment team she had Asperger’s syndrome and said that she was unlawfully disadvantaged by the multiple choice method of testing. She said the employer should have granted her request to be allowed to answer the SJT questions in the form of short narrative written answers. However, the GLS refused.
Ms Brookes subsequently took the SJT and failed the test, obtaining 12 points when the pass mark was 14. She made a claim against the GLS for indirect discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from disability.
The UK Employment Tribunal found that the requirement to take the SJT in multiple choice form was not a proportionate means of achieving the aim of testing the fundamental competency which was to make effective decisions.
Medical evidence was also provided to show that multiple choice tests placed autistic people at particular disadvantage compared with those that do not have autism.
The GLS unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which found the original tribunal made the correct decision on the matter.
You can read the decision here.
Case 2 - Meier v BT
An autistic man with dyslexia and dyspraxia, Mr Kevin Meier, applied for a role in network design and engineering as part of British Telecommunications (BT)’s graduate program. Mr Meier disclosed his conditions to BT, but the recruitment team were not provided with that information because the information was part of the monitoring section only.
Mr Meier completed a Situational Strength Test (SST) as part of his application and failed the test, scoring 29 out of a possible 180. The pass mark was 73. Mr Meier was ultimately not offered a graduate position.
BT argued that the onus should have been on Mr Meier to voice his concerns about the SST and to make suggestions about adjustments that were needed.
However, the Court of Appeal found that Mr Meier had been placed at a substantial disadvantage in the recruitment process by BT’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Meier. It’s not only to consider adjustments that are put forward by the employee, but also up to the employer to decide whether any reasonable adjustments are appropriate and necessary.
You can read the judgement here.
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