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Employee awarded €20,000 for being dismissed due to dyslexia

Facts: The Complainant was diagnosed with Dyslexia when she was in fifth year at school but was used methods to accommodate her disability and was awarded a first class honours degree in acting by Trinity College. The Complainant was employed by the Respondent as an actor on 17th September 2018 subsequent to two rounds of auditions. After her reading with two other actors on 21st September, the Director’s feedback to the Complainant was to get off the book. On 23rd September, the Complainant got a call from her agent that the Respondent opined that she was not suitable for the role. The letter from the Respondent’s solicitor to the Complainant’s agent stated that the Complainant’s dyslexia was hampering her progress and that if the Respondent had known of her condition at the outset, arrangements could have been made to accommodate her. The Complainant argued that if she was let go for creative/artistic reasons, she would have accepted it as industry standards, however she claimed that she was discriminated because of her disability which she had communicated with the Respondent at the outset. The Respondent argued that the Company Director was not aware of her condition until after she was dismissed. The Respondent’s Solicitor submitted that the letter suggesting Complainant’s dyslexia as the reason for the dismissal was his mistake and that he did not have instructions to that effect.   

Findings: The Adjudication Officer, Marian Duffy, stated that where a prima facie case is made out, the onus shifts to the Respondent to rebut the inference of discrimination raised. The Adjudicating Officer further stated that an employer is not obliged to retain an employee who is not fully competent under Section 16(1) of the Employment Equality Act (“Act”). Noting that the Director’s evidence clearly portrayed his full knowledge of her dyslexia, the Adjudicating Officer rejected the Respondent’s claim of being unaware of her condition. The Adjudicating Officer referred to Humphreys v Westwood Fitness Club [2004] E.L.R. 296 and An Employer and A Worker EDA 0413, in finding that the Respondent had not made any enquiries as to why she was not able to keep up to speed or attempted to provide reasonable accommodation to the Complainant to assist her.

The Adjudicating Officer awarded the Complainant a compensation of €20,000.00 for the distress caused to her due to the discriminatory treatment.

Note to Employers: While the employer’s solicitor’s email seemed to be fatal to this case. This decision also reflects the apparent failure on the employer’s part to first ensure that it was providing all reasonable accommodation to an employee with disability before making a decision about performance. It is also important to note that it would not be a discrimination if the employment of employee with disability is terminated on the grounds of competence and qualification. It also would not have been discrimination if the lack of keeping up to speed could have had nothing to do with the disability as all reasonable accommodation had been provided.

https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/november/adj-00019367.html

29th November 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall

Fitzwilliam Place

Dublin 2.

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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