Flexibility in the Workplace & Discrimination by Association: Sharon Coleman Vs Attridge Law

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : HROB115 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Flexible Working/ Equal Opportunity/ Workplace Discrimination
Case Length : 16 pages
Period : 2001-2008
Pub Date : 2008
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Attridge Law/ miscellaneous
Industry : Law/ miscellaneous
Countries : UK, Europe


On July 17, 2008, to the European Court of Justice (EJC) gave a ruling that expanded the scope of European law on disability discrimination to include those who were associated with or responsible for a disabled person. The case discusses in detail the events that led to this ruling which was considered a landmark one and was expected to have huge implications for businesses in Europe. It all began when Sharon Coleman (Coleman) a former legal secretary with London-based law firm Attridge Law, sued her former employer (and a partner in the firm) in August 2005 for constructive dismissal. Coleman, who had a disabled son, alleged that the firm had discriminated against her at the workplace due to her association with a disabled person.

She alleged that she was treated differently, subjected to criticism and insults, denied flexible working arrangements that would help her to take care of her badly disabled child, and ultimately forced into accepting voluntary redundancy. She claimed that other employees were allowed flexible working arrangements.

The case was referred by the UK Employment Tribunal to the EJC, to establish whether or not the European Framework Employment Directive included discrimination against the carer of a disabled person or discrimination by association. EJC's ruling in favor of Coleman was expected to change the interpretation of discrimination laws in the UK as well as in other member countries of the European Union. The case also discusses in detail the possible implications for businesses and particularly the challenges faced by the HR Managers, in light of this ruling.


Understand issues and challenges facing organizations/HR managers in providing flexible working options, ensuring equal employment opportunity, etc.

Understand the organizational implications of the European court ruling on disability discrimination by association.

Sensitize students/trainees regarding issues regarding workplace discrimination.

Explore ways in which organizations can ensure compliance to laws relating to equal opportunity, flexible working and discrimination in the workplace.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Discrimination at the Workplace 2
How it all Began 4
Coleman Sues Attridge Law & Steve Law 5
The Ruling 6
Implications for Employers 7
Exhibits 10

Key Words:

Flexible working, Equal employment opportunity, Workplace discrimination, Discrimination by association, Legal , European law, UK law, Attridge Law, Sharon Coleman

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