Ex-Reed Smith trainee accuses firm of disability discrimination

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Employment Tribunal dismissed further race discrimination claim

A former trainee solicitor at Reed Smith has accused the firm of disability discrimination, according to a filing at London’s Employment Tribunal.

The tribunal did, however, strike out a further race discrimination claim, and is currently adjudicating the claim of disability discrimination, with a preliminary hearing listed for next month.

The claimant started his training contract with the firm in August 2013 and, according to the tribunal filing, was first extended after he hurt his back in a car accident, and thereafter “because other health conditions led to him taking so much time off work sick that he could not gain the required experience”. His training contract eventually expired in February 2020.

Just before that date, the firm is said to have launched an investigation into whether their former trainee, who claims to have suffered from “depression, back pain and colitis”, had attended work. They “suspected he had dishonestly represented that he had been at work when he had not”. In their investigation, the firm analysed the ex-trainee’s swipe card records, computer records, emails, and time recording.

In July 2020, the rookie brought a claim against his former employer to the tribunal, alleging he had been discriminated against because of race and disability. He sought £45,000 for injury to feelings, and between £206,000 and £1,446,000 for loss of earnings, and another £870,000 for care.

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Employment Judge Goodman has, however, struck out the race discrimination claim, which purportedly related to events in the real estate department between 2015 to 2016, on account of it being “unparticularised”. The remaining claims relate to disability, and include unauthorised deductions of statutory sick pay, failure to make reasonable adjustments for disability, disability harassment, and victimisation.

The complaints relate to access to toilets and pressure to work late, connected with his ulcerative colitis — an inflammation of the digestive system.

Legal Cheek was unable to reach the former Reed Smith trainee for comment.

A Reed Smith spokesperson said:

“The firm takes any allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and has been vigorously defending this claim. The Employment Tribunal has already struck out the race discrimination claims made by [the claimant] and we are confident that it will also find that there is no merit to the disability discrimination claims made against the firm.”

A preliminary hearing date has been set for 7 July 2021.

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