Background to Complaint
Ms. X was successful in her application for the position of temporary process operator with An Electronic Component Company (AECC) but within 3 days of commencement her employment was terminated.
Ms. X completed a medical examination, which was conducted by an Occupational Health Nurse on behalf of AECC on 15/02/05. As part of this process she also completed a pre-placement medical questionnaire.
The next day (16/02/05) Ms. X also successfully completed an AECC manual handling training course.
During the course of this training she was asked by the trainer to sit up straight to protect her back. During one of the breaks she told the trainer that she had difficulty sitting up straight because “she is heavy chested and naturally slouches” and “she didn’t have a back problem”.
The following day (17th February 2005) Ms. X was contacted by the Occupational Health Nurse who had conducted her medical examination and who said she was annoyed that she hadn’t declared her back problem on the medical questionnaire. She repeated she didn’t have a back problem to the nurse.
On the 18th February 2005 Ms. X was asked to attend a meeting with the HR Manager of AECC and a colleague where she presented a letter from her own doctor stating that she was fit for work and that she had only once presented with “mild thoracic pain” but that no abnormalities were found and that it was once off.
At that meeting she was informed by the HR Manager that her employment was terminated and this was confirmed in writing a few days later.
The HR Manager decided that Ms. X had failed to disclose in her medical questionnaire that she had a “back problem”.
Independent medical evidence given by an Occupational Health Physician in 2006 stated that Ms. X didn’t suffer from curvature of the spine then and was unlikely to have done so one year earlier.
Equaltiy Tribunal Find Discrimination Did Occur
The Equality Officer found that by taking the word of the trainer over Ms. X and in the absence of any medical opinion, AECC had imputed a disability to Ms. X.
Furthermore,the Equality Officer found that when AECC faced conflicting information about a “back problem”, it acted in an impetuous manner and did not seek a medical opinion.
Consequently, AECC was found to have discriminated on the grounds of disability and Ms. X was awarded €15,000 (€10,000 for loss of earnings and €5,000 for distress).
Case: Ms X v An Electronic Component Company, Equality Tribunal, 2006
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