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Employee awarded €15,000 for discriminatory treatment due to speech impediment

In the recent decision of Adjudication officer Ray Flaherty the Complainant was awarded €15,000 for the discriminatory treatment he received from his employer due to his speech impediment. The Respondent is an Agricultural Equipment Manufacturer.

Background

The Complainant had over 30 years’ experience in the manufacturing industry when he applied for the position of Design Engineer with the Respondent. He attended for interview and was telephoned by the Respondent’s Managing Director (MD) who told him that he was unsure whether he would give the Complainant the job or not but eventually made the decision to hire the Complainant. The Complainant was aware that he was taking over the position from a former employee who had held the position for over 20 years but left due to the excessive workload.

The Complainant submitted that he was not made aware of any issues regarding his work and in February 2017 at a six-month performance appraisal with the MD and Finance Director, the Complainant was told that the Respondent was happy with his work and received a small pay increase. The Complainant submitted that he had not received a copy of his contract of employment but remembered signing a copy. The Complainant submitted a data access request to the Respondent and received a copy of two statements of employment and an appraisal form. The Respondent submitted that the Complainant was on a six month fixed term contract, with the provision for this included by way of a handwritten note at the top right-hand corner of the first page of each document.

The Complainant was given an IPad with a text to speech app in order to assist him with communicating. The Complainant submitted that this was actually more time consuming than speaking with his stammer and the volume was not sufficient to be heard on the factory floor. The compliant further submitted that only 5% if his job involved verbal communication.

 The Complainant continued to work with the Respondent until July 2017 and on 14 July he received a text from the MD requesting that he contact him before he went home. The MD told the Complainant “We’re parting company. It’s just not working out”.  When the Complainant queried this decision he was told “..it’s the whole communication thing. I need someone who can communicate with dealers and customers.” The Complainant offered to work out his notice as he still had work to finish up but the MD refused. The Complainant received a text from his supervisor on 16 July stating “I’m so sorry. I can’t understand why. I always said you were getting on great when asked…which you were…I’m shocked, genuinely….- was some workload to take over after Mike and I can say you know more about tag hydraulics than me.! I’m at a lose (sic) to understand their reasons.”

The Respondent denied in the strongest possible terms that they took no steps to accommodate the Complainant. The Respondent made reference to the IPad given to the Complainant. The Respondent argued that the Complainant was not able to design tanks correctly and that this was causing the Respondent financial loss and delays in the manufacturing process.

Decision

The Adjudicator concluded that on the balance of the evidence before him, with emphasis placed on the text message received by the Complainant from his supervisor, he was satisfied that this cast doubt on the bone fides of the Respondent’s contention that the termination of the Complainant’s employment was genuinely related to poor performance. The Adjudicator concluded that the Complainant’s complaint that he was discriminated against by the Respondent on the grounds of disability is well-founded and made an award of €15,000.

Link: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/september/adj-00012412.html

16th October 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall

Fitzwilliam Place

Dublin 2.

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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