Employee with Anorexia was Unfairly Dismissed

In this case, the Labour Court outlined the correct approach to be followed by employers when considering dismissing an employee for incapacity due to disability.   The claimant was employed by a Fitness Centre as a Childcare Assistant from October 2000 to June 2002 when she was dismissed.   She suffered throughout the period of her employment from anorexia which later developed into bulimia.   In the opinion of the Company, the claimant required an extended period of time to complete the treatment she was undertaking and thus dismissed her.   The Labour Court heard the claimant’s case.   In making their determination, the Court found that the claimant’s dismissal arose wholly or mainly from the Company’s belief that the disorder from which she suffered impaired her ability to carry out the duties for which she was employed.   In addition, it was found that in making their decision to dismiss the claimant, the Company did not obtain any medical or psychiatric advice in relation to her disorder nor did they undertake any form of risk assessment in relation to her condition. Thus she was treated less favourably than a person who did not suffer from a similar disability.   As such, the lesson which must be learned from this case is that, in such circumstances, an employer must ensure that they are in possession of:
    • All the material facts concerning the employee’s medical condition / fitness, • The degree of impairment arising from the disability and it’s likely duration, and • Should the employee be found not to be fully capable, what (if any) special treatment or facilities are available
  In addition, an employer must inform the employee that dismissal on the grounds of incapacity is being considered.   As such, the Court ordered the company to pay compensation of €13,000 to the claimant.   Case: Humphries v Westwood Fitness Centre, Labour Court, EED037, 18/2/2003