Boy with autism who was told not to eat toast in his school taxi awarded €5k damages
BUS Eireann has been ordered to pay €5,000 to an autistic teenager who was stopped from eating toast in his taxi to school.
The Workplace Relations Commission found that the company had discriminated against the 16-year-old on the grounds of his disability.
Adjudication officer Gerry Rooney ordered Bus Eireann to pay €5,000 to the boy and also ordered the operator to consult with his family without delay.
The boy’s parents submitted that, owing to their son’s dietary requirements, he would have his breakfast of a slice of toast, a banana and fruit juice in the taxi en route to school.
They maintained that any changes in the teen’s routine could cause difficulty and regression in his development.
From 2015, the boy’s needs were met by a taxi driver contracted by Bus Eireann who transported him to a special needs school.
In 2016 a new taxi driver was appointed by Bus Eireann, and the routine of the teen eating his breakfast in transit was accommodated without a problem.
However, on January 27, 2017, the new driver said he was getting a new car worth €60,000 and asked that the boy no longer ate toast in it.
His father indicated that this would be a very distressing change to his teenager’s routine.
The taxi driver maintained his opposition despite the parents’ offer to buy him a portable vacuum cleaner.
The driver told the parents that it was a Bus Eireann policy for pupils not to eat on school transport and there were health and safety issues.
The parents contacted Bus Eireann a number of days later and spoke to an inspector who indicated that the taxi driver was being reasonable and told the parents that the teenager would be given one week to stop eating the toast.
Bus Eireann denied that it discriminated against the boy.
In his findings, Mr Rooney said: “There was no evidence provided that when the complainant was being reasonably accommodated previously that any soiling of the taxi occurred, or if soiling had occurred in the past that it presented an unreasonable cost to the taxi driver, or the respondent.”