It is not uncommon to hear cases of discrimination. While it is against the law to discriminate against an individual based on their physical capabilities in the workplace, we often hear of discrimination in circumstances relating to the provision of goods and services contrary to the Equal Status Act of 2000. This article, however, will particularly focus on disability discrimination in the workplace and the laws protecting an employee who has a disability.
Several legislative Acts exist protecting the rights of such employees, but firstly we will outline what discrimination is.
What is Disability Discrimination?
Disability discrimination is when a person ie an employee who has a disability is mistreated in comparison with an employee without a without a disability in the same situation or circumstance. They are in essence treated differently and not in a positive way. They are treated less favourably to that of a fellow employee. In the workplace, employees are protected against discriminative policies at all stages of human-resource management processes including recruitment, training, workplace rights, and dismissals.
Definition of a Disability in the Act:
“ disability” means—
( a) the total or partial absence of a person’s bodily or mental functions, including the absence of a part of a person’s body,
( b) the presence in the body of organisms causing, or likely to cause, chronic disease or illness,
( c) the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person’s body,
( d) a condition or malfunction which results in a person learning differently from a person without the condition or malfunction, or
( e) a condition, illness or disease which affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or which results in disturbed behaviour.
Employment Equality Acts and Workplace Relations Act 2015
The legislature has passed several laws and regulations pertaining to equality in in the workplace to ensure that employees who have a disability have equal rights and a right of recourse in the event that discrimination occurs.
The Employment Equality Acts and Workplace Relations Act (1998/2004 & 2015)
- Promote equal employment opportunities;
- Ban sexual harassment in the workplace;
- Ban discriminative practices across nine grounds, one of those being discrimination by reason of an employee having a disability;
- Ban victimization;
- Endeavour to create measures to ensure collective responsibility for improved equality in the workplace.
The Employment Equality Acts encompass all of the following parties/entities:
- Full-time and part-time staff members;
- Companies within the private and public sectors;
- Vocational training institutions;
- Trade and labour unions as well as professional bodies.
Under special conditions, this law may also apply to self-proprietorships, partnerships and public servants occupying state and local government offices.
Types of Disability Discrimination :
Disability discrimination in the workplace is typically categorized into two classes:
- Direct disability discrimination; or
- Indirect disability discrimination.
Direct discrimination is when an individual is treated less favourably to that of individual without a disability under similar conditions. It is straightforward and easy to see. An example of outright discrimination is when a job vacancy pops up within an establishment, but a person without a disability is rewarded with the position yet an employee with a disability was the most qualified for the position.
Indirect discrimination is less overt, but nevertheless exists, and an example is when an organisation lays down policies for everyone but mainly targets employees with disabilities.
Liability of Employers – Vicarious Liability :
This is defined under the Acts as follows:
15.—(1)Anything done by a person in the course of his or her employment shall, in any proceedings brought under this Act, be treated for the purposes of this Act as done also by that person’s employer, whether or not it was done with the employer’s knowledge or approval.
Time Limits :
Any employee wishing to file a disability discrimination complaint under the Employment Equality Acts must do so within six months from the exact date when the act of discrimination took place. These complaints should be filed online through the Workplace Relation Commission’s website.
Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute.
Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.