Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Reasonable Workplace Accommodation at Question in Supreme Court Case

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Appears Before Supreme Court as Amicus Curiae

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today appeared before the Supreme Court to exercise its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in a significant case on the rights of persons with disabilities to have reasonable accommodations made in the workplace.

The Commission is appearing as amicus curiae in this case as the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the reasonable accommodation obligations of employers under the Employment Equality Acts (EEA) will have implications for all people with disabilities in work or seeking employment.

The case of Marie Daly v. Nano Nagle School centres on Marie Daly, a Special Needs Assistant (‘SNA’), who had worked for the Nano Nagle School for children with learning and/or physical disabilities since 1998. In 2010, she had an accident and, after a period of rehabilitation, in 2011 she sought to return to work.

Following a review, the School Board concluded that Ms Daly did not have the capacity to undertake the full set of duties associated with a SNA, and nor would she in the future, and so decided not to permit her to return to work.

Ms Daly made a complaint to the former Equality Tribunal (now the Workplace Relations Commission) on the basis that the School had failed to provide appropriate measures to accommodate her, as a person with a disability, to return to work contrary to section 16 of the EEA. The case has proceeded by appeal through the courts and is now being heard before the Supreme Court.

In its submissions to the Supreme Court published today, the Commission has argued that the provision of reasonable accommodation in the workplace must be interpreted in accordance with Ireland’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and EU law. The Commission has argued that such an interpretation means that reasonable accommodation can include reorganisation of work or the distribution of tasks which results in the modification of an employee’s job description and that an employer should consult with an employee before making decisions about reasonable accommodation. The Commission has also called on the Court to take into account the close connection between work and the dignity and freedom of the person, where 2016 Census figures show 22% of people with disabilities were employed in Ireland.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

The outcome of this case has broad and significant implications for the rights of people with disabilities who are in work or job hunting. A clear understanding of the positive duties on employers to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace is vital to enable access to employment.

“The Commission has argued before the Supreme Court that there is an obligation on the State to interpret the reasonable accommodation duty in line with both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Ireland last year, and with EU law.”

ENDS/

 

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

 

Editor’s Note

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s written submissions in this case are available at the following link:

Submissions dated – 25th October 2018

Submissions dated – 4th December 2018

Submissions dated – 6th December 2018

Reasonable Accommodation

Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 (EEA) an employer is obliged to take appropriate measures to enable a person who has a disability: to have access to employment; to participate or advance in employment; or to undertake training unless the measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. Appropriate measures are effective and practical measures to adapt the employer’s place of business including: the adaption of premises and equipment; patterns of working time; distribution of tasks; or the provision of training or integration resources.

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

 

 

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