Speed-van operator loses discrimination case over being denied time off for MMA event

Speed-van operator loses discrimination case over being denied time off for MMA event

Desmond Murphy, who worked as a monitoring operator with GoSafe until March 2020, claimed the company had ignored his disability when he sought to participate in an MMA course aimed at strengthening his wellbeing.

A speed-van operator who claimed his obesity and associated mental health issues constituted a disability took a discrimination case against his former employer after being denied time off to take part in a mixed martial arts charity challenge.

Desmond Murphy, who worked as a monitoring operator with GoSafe until March 2020, claimed the company had ignored his disability when he sought to participate in an MMA course aimed at strengthening his wellbeing.

In a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), he claimed to have been discriminated against on grounds of disability, mental health, and obesity in relation to his application for time off to attend “a self-improvement course”.

WRC adjudication officer Patsy Doyle rejected Mr Murphy’s claim, however, stating he had failed to prove that he possessed a disability.

Shift change request refused

In his complaint, Mr Murphy said an opportunity arose for him to join “a morning weight-loss programme” in January 2020, but his participation would require an alternation of his shifts.

His request to change his hours was ultimately refused, and he felt “diminished and intimidated” because of his mental health. He gave notice to his employer under “total duress” and felt he had been discriminated against on grounds of disability, mental health and obesity.

Road Safety Operations Ireland, which trades as GoSafe, noted in its response that the weight-loss programme was a “white-collar mixed martial arts charity event” that would take place over 20 weeks.

The company said Mr Murphy had not mentioned mental or physical health benefits, and instead had said he wanted to participate in the event to raise “some much-needed money” for an Alzheimer’s charity.

He had requested the shift changes just one day before the course commenced, it added, and said he had never raised issues relating to disability, mental health or obesity before the dispute.

No medical evidence

In her decision, Ms Doyle noted Mr Murphy had not presented medical evidence and instead relied on a strong personal view that he had a disability, which had been improved by the MMA course.

“I accept he enjoyed this course and felt empowered by it,” she said.

However, the adjudication officer noted a disability was more than “feeling diminished, disappointed or down at work”. 

In dismissing Mr Murphy’s complaint, Ms Doyle concluded he could not avail of the definition of disability and his former employer, therefore, had no case to answer.

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