Sunday 20 October 2019

Engineer 'fired on the spot' over stammer wins €15,000 payout

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Gordon Deegan

A design engineer for an agricultural machinery manufacturer who was discriminatorily dismissed over his stammer has been awarded €15,000 compensation.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordered the unnamed firm to pay the worker €15,000 after finding the company discriminated against him on the grounds of his disability - a severe speech impediment.

In his findings, WRC adjudication officer Ray Flaherty said he found on the balance of probability "it is more likely that the decision to terminate the worker's employment had more to do with his disability than with his work performance".

The worker - who has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing industry - was given a job at the firm in August 2016 after an interview where he made the company aware he had a severe speech impediment.

But less than 12 months into his new post, the man's boss told him: "We're parting company. It's not working out."

However, the worker queried this as it was his understanding that the firm was happy with his work.

In response, the worker said his boss told him: "Your designs are good, it's the whole communication thing. I need someone who can communicate with the dealers and customers".

The firm produces grass-cutting machines and slurry/water tankers.

During his time with the company, the man's boss said he had heard about a 'text to speech' app which would go on an iPad and help with his communication.

The engineer said he agreed to try it out but he found the app was not practical to use in a work environment as it took longer to turn on the tablet, swipe the screen, type the words and press 'go' than it did to say it with his stammer.

On being told that he was to be dismissed in July 2017, the engineer told the WRC that he was "in complete shock" that he was dismissed on the spot without prior warning.

He claimed that the firm discriminatorily dismissed him because of his disability and that its treatment of him constituted discrimination on the grounds of disability.

The firm denied in the strongest possible terms that it took no steps to investigate or accommodate the worker. It said it made every effort to accommodate him.

At the hearing, the worker produced a text from a member of the firm's management team on learning of the dismissal which read: "I'm shocked, genuinely. I'm at a loss to understand their reasons. I always said you were getting on great when asked."

Mr Flaherty said the text cast further doubt on the bona fides of the firm's contention that its decision to end the man's employment was genuinely related to poor performance.

Irish Independent

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