Ex-Alcoholic Suffered Discrimination Labourt Court Decides


This is an appeal by a Government Department against the decision of the Equality Tribunal which found that it had discriminated against Mr. B, a recovering alcoholic, on the disability ground in not offering him promotion to the grade of Assistant Principal Officer (AP).

In this case, Mr. B applied for promotion to the next grade (AP) on a number of occasions.
Mr. B applied and was unsuccessful in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, however, in 2004 he was successful and because of his seniority, he was placed at the head of the panel for that year. No vacancies arose to be filled from the 2004 panel during its term and Mr. B applied once again in 2005. However, on this occasion he was deemed unsuitable and was not placed on the panel. As such, Mr. B contented that his failure to attain promotion in this case was due to his alcoholism.

Labour Court Finding that Discrimination Did Occur

The Court was satisfied that Mr. B’s work performance and self–confidence were adversely affected by his condition, however, it found that he showed significant improvements in both respects as his recovery continued.
Furthermore, the Court found that the Government Department up to and including the hearing of this appeal, did not accept that alcoholism is a disability within the meaning of the Act. On that account the nature and scope of its duty to avoid discriminating against Mr. B on the disability ground was never specifically considered by the Government Department. Crucially, the Government Department never complied with its duty under Section 16 of the Act to take appropriate measures to enable Mr. B to overcome any features of his disability which impede his ability to advance in employment.
As such, the court ordered the Government Department to:

  • Appoint Mr. B to the relevant grade with immediate effect and backdate this appointment to November 2002,
  • Pay a full salary adjustment to Mr. B i.e. Mr. B’s salary should be increased and backdated to November 2002,
  • Pay compensation in the amount of €6,000 for the distress caused to Mr. B.

Case: A Government Department v An Employee [Mr. B], Labour Court


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