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Blog  »  April 2015  »  Discrimination due to disability - Blog
Apr 15

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Discrimination due to disability

A recent Equality Officers decision resulted in an employee in a healthcare company being awarded €20,000 compensation for discrimination due to her illness.

The dispute concerned a claim by the employee that she was subjected to discriminatory treatment in her working conditions by the employer on the grounds of disability and she was moved to a different area of the company as a result of her disability. The employee referred a claim of discrimination to the Director of the Equality Tribunal under the Employment Equality Acts. Who then delegated the case to Valerie Murtagh – an Equality Office- for investigation, hearing & decision.

The employee was employed with the company since 10 April 1978 and was initially employed as an assembler and had been working with the Bio Clean team since 2002. In 2006, the employee was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis; the employer was at all times fully aware of the employee’s condition. At the request of the employer, the employee attended a medical assessment in December 2012 and again in January 2013. The employee confided in the Doctor “a new issue of concern in respect of her job”, however she instructed the Doctor that she did not “want to formalise it into a complaint or grievance”. The employee maintains that the Doctor took it upon himself to report her issue to management and request that they look into the problem and “try to lessen any tensions within the group”.

Soon after the employee was asked to attend a meeting entitled “Meeting with Management and Sandra to discuss return to work”. It was at this meeting the employee contends that the minutes clearly indicate the purpose was to inform her it had been decided by the employer to move the employee from the “Bio-Clean Dept.” to the “Makes Spares Area”. The employee queried if this move was as a result of her MS condition to which the line manager replied that if she did not have the condition she would not be removed from the area.

The Equality Officer found that instead of carrying out risk assessments of the job and duties based on the employee’s illness, management made a decision to move her to a completely different area. This decision was made on the basis of an alleged concern on the part of the company that the employee would suffer from fatigue caused by her MS. This contention appears to have been made in the absence of any medical evidence and was based purely on an assumption by the employee’s line manager.

The equality officer found that the respondent did discriminate against the employee on the disability ground. The officer directed the employer to re-instate the employee in the “Bio-Clean” area and also gave an award of financial compensation of €20,000 which equates to six months’ salary. This is in compensation for the effects of the discrimination and is not subject to PAYE/PRSI.

If the above company had discussed with the employee how they could help to alleviate any issues and then followed-up with review meetings they could have saved themselves a lot of money. Bright Contracts has all the relevant policies and procedures built into the software for employers to use and follow for instances just like this.

For further detail on this case please see:

BrightPay - Payroll Software

Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Company Handbook, Contract of employment