The case of The Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey concerned the issue of perceived disability discrimination.


The Claimant was employed by Norfolk Constabulary from 1993 until 1997 and was a Police Constable.  She did not suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus at that time.  She took a career break for family reasons.  In 2009, she re-joined the force as a Staff Member.  In 2011, she applied to Wiltshire Constabulary to be a Police Constable. She underwent a medical and it was found she suffered from hearing loss with tinnitus.

Wiltshire Constabulary followed the guidance set out in the National Recruitment Standards which included Medical Standards for Police Recruitment and arranged a practical test of hearing to assess functional disability.  The Claimant passed this test.  She worked as a Police Constable on frontline duties with no adverse effects from 2011 onwards.

In September 2013, the Claimant made an application to Norfolk Constabulary for a transfer due to family reasons.  The Claimant disclosed that she had some hearing loss and provided the report from the functionality test.  She also made them aware that no adjustments had been necessary to carry out her role because of the hearing loss.  The Claimant herself saw a specialist who confirmed her hearing levels were stable and sent a copy of the report to Norfolk Constabulary.

Norfolk Constabulary rejected the Claimant’s transfer request because her hearing was just below the acceptable standard, without a functional test, based on concerns she might end up on restricted duties should her hearing deteriorate.


This decision was held to be direct discrimination based on a perception that the Claimant would be disabled in the future.

If you are an employee who feels they have been discriminated against on the grounds of disability, race, sex, age, religion or belief, Farleys’ employment law department can provide advice and employment tribunal representation to ensure a fair outcome of your claim. We can also provide advice to businesses relating to employment claims for discrimination. Contact the team on 0845 287 0939 or email us.