Saturday 29 April 2017

Worker banned from going to lunch or tea with colleagues awarded €40k

A worker who felt 'humiliated' by her employer banning her from going on tea or lunch breaks with colleagues has been awarded €40,000. Stock Image: PA
A worker who felt 'humiliated' by her employer banning her from going on tea or lunch breaks with colleagues has been awarded €40,000. Stock Image: PA

Gordon Deegan

A worker who felt "humiliated" by her employer banning her from going on tea or lunch breaks with colleagues has been awarded €40,000.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found the council discriminated against the woman after retiring her on medical grounds, and failing to reasonably accommodate her to continue her employment.

The woman - who is a wheelchair user - was diagnosed with a genetic neurodegenerative movement disorder at 12.

The council's HR department banned the woman from eating and drinking with her colleagues at her workplace in 2009 and this continued until the council retired the woman on medical grounds. The woman was also banned from eating or drinking at her desk.

At the one day WRC hearing, the woman argued that no medical report was ever put forward for the eating and drinking ban.

She admitted she had difficulties swallowing - but this was addressed by her speech and language therapist who recommended she not eat dry foods. She said that her colleagues would ask why she was not having a cup of tea or something to eat at break time.

The woman told the WRC that "this was a cause of embarrassment and humiliation".

The adjudication officer in the case, Gaye Cunningham, said that while some evidence was given of physical problems with coughing, actual medical evidence outlining the reasons for the ban on food or liquids in the workplace was not given.

The officer found the council acted in what they considered to be the best interests of the woman in banning her from eating and drinking in the workplace. The council retired the woman based on a medical report last January, in spite of her cardiologist and neurologist stating they did not have a medical issue with her working and even that it benefited her.

In its reply, the council stated that it requested a health and safety report in October 2015 on the basis that colleagues were becoming concerned for the woman's safety due to alarming coughing fits - during which time it would appear that she had stopped breathing.

Effort

The council outlined the efforts made to accommodate the woman at work - including providing reduced duties in accordance with her capabilities; a hoist for lifting and a specially-adapted keyboard.

But it said the competing balances in the case were no longer sustainable due to the increasing medical risks in the case. At the meeting where she was retired, the woman was given no right to appeal.

The WRC found the council made many efforts to accommodate the worker over the years but overall failed in its duty to provide reasonable accommodation for the woman at work.

Irish Independent

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