A university here has been ordered to pay €60,000 for discriminating against an employee who had significant anxiety over contamination from using work toilets.
The woman has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Maria Kelly has found that the university failed to make reasonable accommodation for the woman’s disability and that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her disability.
The woman retired from her role due to ill-health last year as working full time was too stressful “because of the toilet issues”.
The woman stated that she saw no option but to retire for the sake of her mental health.
The woman commenced employment on November 23, 1998 and she retired on health grounds on January 25 2019.
The woman - who has a Higher Diploma and a Masters in Education - was previously hospitalised due to her OCD in 2008/09 and in 2012.
Due to the woman’s significant anxiety around using toilets at work, she avoided using the toilets if possible.
In 2018, the woman was diagnosed with incontinence and her doctors advised that not going to the toilet enough over the years had contributed to her developing this condition.
The medical advice to her was to go to the toilet at least every three hours and she advised HR of her disability and requested reasonable accommodation.
During her discussions with the university’s HR Partner the complainant put several suggestions about working part-time at home and part-time in the office, being accommodated with extra toilet breaks, being allowed time to go home to use her own toilet and working at home but collecting and dropping off work at the office.
She stated that all suggestions were rejected as she was told that her role was student-facing, team-based and breaks were twenty minutes in the morning, one hour for lunch.
She stated that the HR Partner was insistent that she could not work from home because of data protection issues.
The woman stated that HR said she could not take extended toilet breaks in the afternoon when she returned to full-time work.
In a letter, the woman’s consultant psychiatrist stated that he would support either two extra toilet breaks or an arrangement where the complainant works some of her time from home.
In her findings, Ms Kelly found that the university in not carrying out an individual assessment of the various options on working from home did not take appropriate measures to enable the complainant to continue to participate in employment.
In response to the woman’s discrimination claim under the Employment Equality Act, Ms Kelly has directed that the employer pay the woman one and a half year’s compensation as her ill health retirement was supported by strong medical evidence.
Ms Kelly stated that the working from home options were disregarded by the university as there was no working from home policy in place at that time.
Ms Kelly also stated that she was satisfied that the complainant was treated differently to one other member of staff who was facilitated with working from home, for a short period.
The university rejected that the complainant was discriminated against on the grounds of her disability.