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Care Assistant Discriminated Against Awarded €10,000

A Tipperary based care assistant was discriminated against on the grounds of disability when her employer failed to enable her to participate in her employment, a WRC adjudicator has found.

The complainant alleged that her employer failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation after her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2016. After a period of sick leave in 2020, the complainant returned to work remotely after her medication placed her in a high-risk category in relation to Covid-19. She returned to the workplace in June 2021. Following this, the employer informed her that she was being referred to occupational health.

The adjudicating officer was satisfied that this was an appropriate response as the employer had reasonable concerns about the complainant’s mobility. The complainant was deemed unfit for work by the occupational health physician on 17 June 2021 and remained out of work until December 2022.

However, the complainant’s specialist and the respondent’s occupational health physician raised the matter of the complainant’s fitness to work in a restricted role or with reasonable accommodation. In the same report, the occupational health physician expressed the opinion that complainant was not fit for a role directly engaging with service users directly.

The Adjudicating officer found that this did not amount to an assessment that no appropriate measures or reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee could be taken. The report goes on to recommend that the employee complete a formal manual handling certification. The Adjudicator was not satisfied that the employer had carried out any assessment of the employee for duties that could be carried out. The Adjudicating officer found the complainant had established a case of discrimination on the grounds of disability.

The adjudicating officer was unable to find any reasonable explanation for the complainant not being allowed to work from home as she had been doing until June 2021. The adjudicator thus found that the employer had failed in its duty to enable the complainant to participate in employment under section 16 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015.

The Respondent was ordered to pay the complainant €10,000 in compensation.

This case highlights the duties and obligations of the employer in the case of requests for reasonable accommodation.

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