Nightclub “no EpiPens” policy: disability discrimination?

The Ipswich Star has reported that Liquid nightclub in Ipswich refused entry to a lady with a severe nut allergy, as she would not hand over her EpiPen.

Beth Dale was told that she would only be admitted if her EpiPen was kept in a secure office. Ms Dale’s stepdad is quoted as saying:

“Being told it would be kept in the office is useless. The EpiPen needs to be used immediately if anaphylaxis starts. There is not time to find a member of staff who will listen, find the keys and administer the injection… [An EpiPen] is a life-saving drug and should never be taken away from the patient.”

In Wheeldon v Marstons, an employment tribunal decided, at a preliminary hearing, that a chef’s severe allergy to nuts was a “disability” under the Equality Act 2010. Mr Wheeldon was therefore allowed to pursue his claim for disability discrimination on account of his nut allergy. I have blogged previously about whether this case might have wider implications and, for example, lead onto restaurants being forced to open their doors a little wider to allergy sufferers.

The DisabledGo News Blog gives the following example of direct discrimination:

“Caroline is a wheelchair user, she goes to a nightclub with a group of friends. The bouncer let’s all her friends in but refuses entry to Caroline saying she will take up too much space. This is an example of direct discrimination as Caroline is being treated less favourably than her non-disabled friends.”

If someone has a life threatening nut allergy, they cannot be parted from their EpiPen. So a nightclub who says “you can’t come in unless you hand over your EpiPen” is effectively saying “you can’t come in”. IF a severe nut allergy is a “disability” in law, then isn’t a business who effectively says to a nut allergic person “you can’t come in” discriminating against a disabled person?

Liquid nightclub have apologised and are reviewing their policy. However, I wonder whether severely allergic people who are refused entry to pubs, clubs, concerts and the like, on account of needing to carry an EpiPen, could bring a disability discrimination claim?

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