Abattoir worker with fear of knives awarded €20,000

An abattoir worker who developed a fear of knives after an accident has been awarded €20,000 against her employer — after it failed to find work for her which did not require the use of knives.

The Workplace Relations Commission found that the post-traumatic stress the woman developed as a result of the accident was a disability and that therefore she was discriminated against on the basis of that disability.

The Brazilian national, with limited English, had been employed by the unnamed company for two years. She alleged to the adjudication officer, Gerry Rooney, that, in June 2014, while trimming meat, a knife being used by a colleague fell on her and cut her nose and upper lip. She needed treatment including five stitches.

She returned to work a few weeks later but a doctor recommended she move to a different area and with alternative duties. She experienced a setback during 2015. She said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the accident and as such she had a disability as defined in the Employment Equality Act.

Her doctor wrote a letter saying she was suffering flashbacks from the accident and conveyed her inability to work with knives. The condition was confirmed by her psychiatrist. She said that there was work she could do, such as making boxes, cleaning, or packaging and suggested this to the company but that no reasonable consideration was given to her suggestions.

The woman said that, in subsequent meetings with the company, it confirmed that she could come back to work when she was fully fit to work with knives.

She said she would therefore need to look for another job and she contended that the respondent instructed her to write a letter to this effect and that her P45 would be issued to her. The company said she left and her job remained open for her, but in light of the medical advice it was not possible to safely employ her until she was fit to return to work.

The adjudication officer found the employer discriminated against the woman on grounds of disability.


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