Is it reasonable to dismiss an employee who is caught stealing, even if they claim it is due to a disability? 

In the recent case of Wood v Durham County Council, Mr Wood was caught shoplifting from Boots the Chemist and as a result was dismissed by his employer.  Mr Wood made a disability discrimination claim on the basis that he suffered from PTSD and associated amnesia.  He said that the shoplifting was as a result of his disability.  The employer agreed that he was indeed disabled, but Mr Wood’s claim was dismissed at Tribunal.  This was because there is a specific exemption in disability discrimination law whereby a tendency to steal cannot be treated as an impairment.

Disability discrimination and excluded conditions

If you have an employee who does something bad and tries to claim that it’s due to a disability then it’s worth knowing that there are 5 specific exclusions like this which can’t be considered proper disability impairments:

  • starting fires
  • stealing
  • physical or sexual abuse of another person
  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism

Interestingly, there is another exclusion for Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis which we would commonly call hay fever.

How we can help

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to dismiss an employee then whether or not you think they might claim a disability we would always advise speaking to us first.  We will help you make the dismissal in the right way to minimise any future liability.

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

Tel: 01245 893400
Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JU

Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website