Law firm did not discriminate against disabled paralegal

Working hours: Paralegal was persistently late

An employment tribunal has rejected disability discrimination claims made against a Welsh law firm by a paralegal dismissed after just nine days for his poor timekeeping.

The tribunal said CJCH, which is based in Cardiff, could not reasonably be expected to know that Nabeel Ud-Din had ADHD and was disabled.

Employment Judge Brace said Mr Ud-Din was employed in July 2019 as a compliance and enforcement paralegal in the firm’s anti-piracy and compliance team. The law firm has a total staff of around 150.

The judge said that “as reflected in his CV”, Mr Ud-Din had “an impressive and varied education”, while the personal qualities mentioned included “good time management” and “coping effectively in demanding circumstances”.

With the law firm “understandably extremely impressed” by the CV, Mr Ud-Din was interviewed by Tim Hartland, the firm’s then managing director.

“Tim Hartland gave evidence on cross-examination that he… was more than happy to offer the claimant the position as a result of his CV and confidence in interview, being excited by the claimant’s skill set and  was optimistic that the claimant could be promoted to research and  development.”

Mr Ud-Din said he had made the law firm aware of the disabilities he relied on in his discrimination claim – ADHD, insomnia and personality disorder.

Judge Brace said the tribunal preferred Mr Hartland’s evidence and “found that the claimant did not tell the respondent at interview of his disability of ADHD, or for the avoidance of doubt, any other health conditions of insomnia, depression and/or personality disorder”.

Mr Ud-Din was sent an offer letter, stating that his working hours would be 8.30-5.30pm Monday to Friday, and signed an employment contract on his first day of work.

During his first week, the training week, Mr Ud-Din was late every day and between two and 20 minutes late on three out of four mornings in the subsequent week before he was dismissed.

The judge said that, on his third day, Mr Ud-Din requested to take lunch early at 11.30am, so he could attend a court hearing. The paralegal said he made it clear that he was attending “his own eviction hearing”. This was denied by the law firm.

Instead of returning to work after an hour, Mr Ud-Din returned at 1.45pm. While the paralegal may have been trying to contact the firm when his phone ran out of charge, he did not “as a result notify anyone that he was returning late”.

Mr Ud-Din was given a verbal warning for his time-keeping following the incident. Having again attended work late on his ninth day, he was dismissed for his “poor time-keeping and attitude towards other members of staff” – the management had received complaints from other staff about him.

The judge said: “Later that day the claimant submitted an appeal in which for the first time he referenced disability.” He issued his claim of disability discrimination in November 2019.

The tribunal found that Mr Ud-Din was a disabled person by reason of ADHD at the relevant time. He had not proved he was disabled by reason of insomnia, depression or personality disorder.

The tribunal accepted the law firm’s evidence that the paralegal had not told them that “he was disabled or that he lives with the impairments he now relies on to bring these claims”.

The firm could not “reasonably have been expected to know” that Mr Ud-Din was disabled, because “nothing in the claimant’s CV or conduct at interview” would have put the firm on notice.

The poor-time-keeping at the start of his employment would not have his put employer on notice, in contrast to a long-serving employee, “whose time-keeping starts to go awry”.

Mr Ud-Din’s claims of direct and indirect disability discrimination were dismissed.

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