A woman who was an unpaid volunteer at an advice bureau in Sussex has lost a fight in the Supreme Court after claiming that she had been a victim of “disability discrimination”.
She claimed the Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau said she could not return after she revealed that she was HIV positive – and she wanted compensation.
But the Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – said the woman had no work contract and was not protected by domestic or European anti-discrimination laws.
A panel of justices said an employment tribunal had “no jurisdiction” to hear a compensation claim by the woman.
Charities said the “nature of volunteering” would have been “undermined” if Supreme Court justices had ruled in the woman’s favour.
And a lawyer said there would have been a “massive impact” on the voluntary sector had the woman won a damages battle.
The woman – who was not named but referred to as ‘X’ – had taken legal action and claimed that her “voluntary activities constituted an occupation”.
But five Supreme Court justices – Lord Neuberger, Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Mance and Lord Wilson – unanimously ruled against her, following a hearing in London earlier this year.
They said that since the woman had no contract she did not benefit from protection afforded by British legislation.
And they said the case should not be referred to a European court because the intention of European law was not to offer “wider protection” to volunteers.
The Court of Appeal had reached a similar conclusion in 2011.
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