Ground Breaking Disability Case to set standards

The Equality Authority welcomes the first successful case under the disability ground in the Employment Equality Act, 1998. The case relates to an employee who manufactured optical discs for a computer component company. She suffers from epilepsy but her condition is well controlled by medication. She had worked in the computer plant for a number of weeks and was fully capable of undertaking any of the tasks associated with the employment. However as her position was to be made permanent, the company decided to terminate her employment based on the results of a medical examination. The Labour Court decided that this action was discriminatory and that the employee was dismissed by reason of her disability. She was awarded £15,000 in compensation.

Discrimination against people with a disability in the workplace has emerged as a major issue for the Equality Authority. Over 15% of the queries we receive in relation to the Employment Equality Act relate to the disability ground. These cover issues of access to employment as well as dismissal promotion and pay.

The Labour Court decision breaks new ground in Irish employment equality law and demonstrates the potential in the legislation for changing and improving the situation of people with disabilities. According to Niall Crowley, Chief Executive of the Equality Authority, this case sends two important and urgent messages to employers.

“First it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities and stiff penalties can be expected. Second, there is an obligation on employers to give consideration to specific facilities or work procedures that would allow people with disabilities do their jobs effectively”

He added that, “the successful prosecution of this case provides a necessary encouragement to people with disabilities. They can now approach the workplace with a confidence that their rights are to be included and accommodated” concluded Mr. Crowley.