Wednesday 19 December 2018

Care assistant claimed fear of soiled nappies was a disability

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Darragh McDonagh

A care assistant who claimed his phobia of soiled nappies constituted a disability has lost a discrimination case against his former employer - a voluntary organisation for people with disabilities.

The worker remained on sick leave for more than three years and reported that he had even tried to take his own life because he "couldn't deal with the prospect of having to deal with nappies".

He was eventually dismissed on grounds of incapacity last year, and complained to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that he had been discriminated against and victimised due to his disability.

The WRC heard that the former care assistant began working with the disability organisation in March 2006, and informed his employer of his phobia of soiled nappies as early as three months later.

The organisation, which provides services to people with severe and profound disabilities, maintained that "intimate care" including changing nappies was among the core duties of care assistants.

Despite this, the complainant continued in the role for eight years but repeatedly asserted his issues with soiled nappies, and sought redeployment to an alternative role that would not require the provision of intimate care.

He commenced a period of sick leave in May 2014, which continued until his eventual dismissal in June 2017, except for a number of short trials in different areas of the service.

During one of these trials, the complainant told the WRC that he suffered a mental breakdown and attempted suicide because he couldn't deal with the prospect of changing soiled nappies.

In his decision, WRC adjudication officer James Kelly said that the "unavoidable conclusion" of the complainant's own submission was that he was unable to perform the core duties of the job for which he was employed.

Dismissing the complaint, Mr Kelly found that the employer had not discriminated against the complainant on grounds of disability by terminating his employment; that he had not been victimised; and that the organisation had not failed in its obligation to provide reasonable accommodation.

Irish Independent

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