€18,000 Awarded To Waitress for Discrimination Due to Disability

In a recent case published by the Equality Tribunal in March 2015, it was determined that a waitress had not resigned her position when suffering from depression and a black out for a number of days and that her employer had discriminated against her on grounds of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation.

The case (Dec – E2015 – 015) involved a waitress that her employer contended had resigned via a phone call on 24th November 2011, which she could not recall either way as she was suffering from a depressive illness at the time and had a blackout that lasted for 8 – 10 days.  The waitress did then notify her employer the day after the telephone call that she was seeking treatment and three weeks later submitted medical certificates for depression and outlined to her employer the details of her condition and was told to go home and get better and not worry about work. The waitress submitted medical certificates for a further period before being told on 20th January 2012 that her employment had ceased and her P45 stated that her date of termination was the 20th of November 2011.

The Equality Officer rejected the employer’s position that the waitress had resigned during the phone call of the 24th November 2011 and determined that they were aware of her condition and depression after 25th November 2011 as a number of colleagues had called to visit the waitress in her home and that they should have followed up with the employee in the circumstances due to the context of the call and the medical condition that they became aware of.  €18,000 was awarded for the discrimination.

Notes for Employers

Employers should note that a verbal resignation in these types of circumstances should always be reviewed and followed up on appropriately to ascertain what was the true intention, and also that depression and addiction issues do constitute a disability that needs to be reasonably accommodated as per the requirements of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2008.