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Recent Determination of the Equality Tribunal

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A recent determination of the Equality Tribunal found that an employer had discriminated against an employee in terms of her role and conditions of employment in the workplace including her promotion opportunities. The Tribunal awarded €70,000 to the employee and also directed that the employer provide the employee with suitable office accommodation. The facts of the case can be seen below.

The complainant suffered from a bowel disorder and as result of the embarrassing symptoms associated with this medical condition it necessitated her having quick access to the toilet in the workplace. Her new working arrangements were then subsequently changed which resulted in the complainant having more difficult access to the toilet facilities. As she was unable to comply with the new office accommodation arrangements, the complainant was placed on sick leave. The employee provided medical evidence to her employer that she would be fit to return to work if she was provided with a single office close to the toilet. The complainant stated that she repeatedly requested the reasonable accommodation facilities. The respondent claimed that they did offer suitable alternative positions within the workplace but the complainant stated that none of these positions were suitable.

The determination illustrates the heavy burden on employers when dealing with employees suffering from a disability. The case also clearly states that an employer must be proactive when dealing with reasonable accommodation conditions and that it is not enough to give token gestures when dealing with disabled employees.