[Thanks to Paul Michell of Cloisters, who acted for Mrs Coleman, for providing this summary]
The ECJ has, this morning, published its landmark decision in Coleman v Attridge Law, in answer to questions posed of it by London South Employment Tribunal. Following the Advocate General’s opinion given on 31 January 2008 (bulletin 31/1/08), the ECJ has confirmed that the Equal Treatment Framework Directive is intended to prohibit associative discrimination in the context of direct discrimination and harassment.
Ms Coleman alleges she was directly discriminated against and harassed by her former employers on grounds of the disability of her son, for whom she is the primary carer. According to the ECJ's decision, the Directive is intended to prohibit direct discrimination or harassment on grounds of disability, even where the person concerned is not disabled themselves.
The Directive applies to age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, as well as disability. Following the ECJ's decision, direct discrimination by association in those other contexts must also be prohibited. (Notably, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 do not yet appear to afford protection from direct discrimination by association in the context of age.)
Ms Coleman's former employer was a law firm, not a public body. Hence the next stage in her case will be to ascertain if the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 can be read purposively, so as to conform with the intent of the Framework Directive which it is supposed to implement.
Note: the full decision will be available on the internet here, probably after midday today. In the meantime, see this Press Release.