‘Lazy’ Carer Wins Initial Stages Of Landmark Case

A British woman who was branded “lazy” by her former employees for wanting time off to care for her disabled son has won the initial stages of a landmark case at the European Court of Justice.

If the case is upheld by the full court it could pave the way for new rights for millions of carers.

The Advocate-General agreed that Sharon Coleman suffered “discrimination by association”. A panel of European judges are expected to make a final ruling later this year.

As primary carer, Ms Coleman asked for flexible working arrangements, but instead accepted voluntary redundancy and began a claim for constructive dismissal five months later.

Ms Coleman said her manager had commented that her child was always sick, and had accused her of repeatedly using his condition to escape work.

Ms Coleman was already working with the law firm when she gave birth to a disabled son in 2002.

He suffers from serious respiratory problems, including apnoeic attacks - an involuntary halt to breathing.

Making the ruling this week Poiares Maduro, a senior European lawyer, commented that directly targeting a person with a particular characteristic was not the only way of discriminating against him or her.

He said: "One way of undermining the dignity and autonomy of people... is to target not them, but third persons who are closely associated with them.''


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