Frontline Customer Service Worker who was Denied Flexible Working was Discriminated Against

In a recent WRC case, the WRC adjudicator has determined that an online sales company discriminated against an employee on the grounds of disability when it failed to consider flexible working.

The complainant claimed that she was discriminated against by not being reasonably accommodated with her disability and that she was treated less favourably to other employees with a different disability or no disability who were accommodated with flexible working and reduced hours. She worked as a customer service agent for the company.

Medical Report Recommended Accommodation

In 2019, she successfully applied for educational assistance and soon after commenced part-time study for a business degree. However, arising from the Covid restrictions, the pressure of work and studying for her final exams she was diagnosed with acute anxiety and prescribed antidepressants.

During her time off she also developed Covid and arising from both illnesses her absence extended from 22 November 2021 until 25 January 2022. She attended the company doctor on 13 February, 2022. The subsequent medical report found that the accommodation sought by the complainant (greater shift and time flexibility) were reasonable.

Flexible Working Request Denied

The complainant said she contacted her manager and requested a period of nine months reduced working hours as other colleagues had been accommodated in the past. This request was denied.

At the hearing, the company stated that they supported the claimant throughout by providing additional paid time off for study and exams and she was paid full sick pay for her absences during 2021 and 2022.

The company added that it was willing to accommodate the complainant with a different shift roster; however, it was not considered appropriate to accommodate her with reduced hours, having regard to the fact that it is personal choice to study for a degree and work.

WRC Decides it was Discrimination

The WRC Adjudicator determined that the complainant was discriminated against on the ground of disability by her employer failing to assess her specific needs based on her mental health disability and their own doctors medical report, that concluded that the options/accommodations detailed by the complainant were reasonable in order to make accommodation for her specific disability so that she could participate and advance in the workforce.

The WRC Adjudicator noted that while the employer is not bound by that recommendation, they are obligated to give serious consideration to it.

He said that there was no evidence that the company gave “any reasonable consideration to their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation based on the complainant’s specific needs and disability and the recommendation of their own doctor.”

Award of €12k

The WRC adjudicator assessed damages for the effects of discrimination at the lower range and awarded the complainant €12,100 in compensation.