Dublin City Council ordered to pay €25k to breast cancer survivor who wasn’t allowed work from home
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 the 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 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 course of a combination of chemotherapy as well as radiation treatment and she returned to work in January 2016.
However, she suffered from persistent post cancer/post chemotherapy 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 working home 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 case 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.
The council 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 the City Council was in possession of all the medical facts pertaining to the woman’s post cancer treatment fatigue.
She said: “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 stated that the council “did not carry out any analysis, review or assessment of what percentage of her duties could be carried out from home”.
She said that the woman “carried out an analysis and broke down her individual functions into those that could be carried out at home and those that required her to be in Dublin. Based on that analysis she concluded that she would have to be in Dublin two days a week only”.
Ms O’Carroll Kelly said that it would seem that the city council “totally ignored her analysis”.
She said: “Furthermore, it would seem that the respondent (DCC) ignored the medic’s advice too.”
Ms O’Carroll Kelly said: “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.”
Ms O’Carroll Kelly stated that 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”.
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