Nov. 30, 2017, 5:32 p.m.
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Dublin City Council has been ordered to pay €25,000 to a fatigued breast cancer survivor after it refused to allow her work from home three days a week.
This follows a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling that the local authority discriminated against the woman on disability grounds under the Employment Equality Act.
The woman has worked as a property and title researcher for the past 28 years at the city council and has an “impeccable service record” and devotes herself to her work.
However, the woman’s “exhausting” daily commute from Blessington in Co Wicklow involves her getting up at 5.30am to be at her desk for 7.30am and she requested that she be allowed to work from home three days a week.
The woman was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2013 and finished work in January 2014 to undergo aggressive treatment, involving a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She returned to work in January 2016.
However, she suffered from persistent fatigue and made a formal application to work from home three days a week pointing out most of her work was carried out at her desk or working online.
The woman’s medical adviser stated that a home working arrangement would serve to alleviate the symptoms of fatigue.
The woman pointed out that the council allowed one employee who broke her leg whilst skiing to work from home until the cast was removed.
In support of her case, the woman submitted a letter from the Irish Cancer Society which set out that “employees need the support of their employer both when they are going through treatment and when they are ready to return to work”, and that includes changes to their work schedule if required.
However, her application to work from home three days a week was turned down last November by the council.
Reduced hours offered
The local authority offered the woman work-sharing; special leave without pay; a shorter working year and a career break but these were rejected by the woman as they involved reduced hours and reduced pay.
The council told the woman that it wasn’t feasible to grant a home working arrangement, resulting in the woman taking her discrimination claim to the WRC.
The woman is currently on reduced hours due to the council’s failure to accommodate her.
Finding that the woman was discriminated against, WRC adjudication officer, Niamh O’Carroll Kelly stated that Dublin City Council was in possession of all the medical facts pertaining to the woman’s post-cancer treatment fatigue.
“They had in their possession five medical reports from the complainant’s doctor and two reports from their own doctor all saying that the complainant would be capable of working additional hours if she could eliminate her commute from Blessington.”
Ms O’Carroll Kelly said the council seemed to have ignored these, and also “totally ignored” an analysis the woman prepared on how she could carry out her duties from home.
Ms O’Carroll Kelly added: “There is a duty on the respondent to redistribute work or remove barriers that present as an obstacle in the way of the employee’s ability to carry out their functions. They failed in their obligation to the complainant to do so.”
The officer she was “satisfied that the fatigue brought on by cancer treatment can be differentiated from everyday normal fatigue and as such it does meet the criteria of a disability within the meaning in the act”.