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€30k Compensation Awarded to Epileptic Solicitor Denied Request to Work from Home

An epileptic solicitor has been awarded €30,000 from the legal service provider she worked for in relation to its refusal to permit her to work from home.

The woman had made six unsuccessful requests to work from home in total with her employer during the time period between March 2015 and January 2017. She made the request due to suffering a number of acute or ‘grand mal’ attacks. She pointed out to the Workplace Relations Commission that other colleagues have been permitted to conduct their work from home.

In directing the legal services provider to pay the €30,000 to the employee for denying her rights under the Employment Equality Acts, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer Pat Brady stated that there should be a zero-risk approach to a situation where there is a danger of a life threatening event occurring.

The Adjudication Officer referred to the attitude of the employer in denying the staff member in her request to complete her work duties from home whatever argument she used. He (Mr Brady) ruled that the employer’s refusal to make any ‘reasonable accommodation’ for the employee over her home working request was a breach of the Employment Equality Act. Additionally he said that the medical evidence in the case “is not very decisive”.

He reported that anything that will reduce stress will help the worker but that the request to work from home would only make a ‘minimal’ contribution to this.

Mr Brady ruled that the legal services provider did not appear concerned about, or was indifferent to, a danger due to the ‘minimal’ impact assessment, despite the chance of a catastrophic event for the employee. The employer in question advised its employee that it would be ‘very challenging’ were she to work at home and ‘incompatible’ with her official duties. Instead the employer permitted other measures such as a reduction in the working week expected.

The employee advised the WRC that it would create no difficulty to carry out her work from home and that she had ‘huge autonomy’ in relation to the delivery of her duties. She said that she made it known that she was willing to be entirely flexible and respond to business needs as necessary. She also said that the majority of her work is of a preparatory nature and could just as easily be carried out from home as from her office.

Mr Brady said that a company spokesperson visibly shrugging his shoulders at the hearing showed that there was no company view as as to how the member of staff could be accommodated.