Deaf man discriminated against at interview awarded €5,500

Both sides agreed that first thing said by manager at interview was, ‘so you’re deaf?

A man greeted with the words “so you’re deaf?” by a job interviewer has been awarded €5,500 for being discriminated against at interview.

He had applied for a job as a warehouse operative that involved forklifting skills and had previously worked for four years in such an environment.

The firm had been told in advance of interview that communication through email and text was preferable as he was deaf, a Workplace Relations Commission hearing was told.

The firm’s branch manager told the commission she was aware the complainant was deaf and was “intrigued” to understand how this might work in their workplace.


According to the commission adjudication officer, Penelope McGrath, both parties agree that the first thing said by the manager was something to the effect that “so you’re deaf?”

At interview, the job applicant indicated he needed paper and a pen to communicate and was asked, “in the warehouse how would you manage to work safely?”and “if there is a hazard and someone was to shout a warning how would you hear it?”


The man told the commission this immediate focus on his disability “was grossly discriminatory” and the interview was tainted.He expected a prospective employer to focus on previous work experience and expertise and considered emphasis on his deafness “offensive”.

Ms McGrath said there is a staggering gap between the job interviewer being “intrigued” to know how a deaf person could be assimilated and the steps she took to appraise herself of how this would work.

“It was open to her to explore the issue of how the previous workplace had operated and she opted not to do it,” said Ms McGrath.

The branch manager told the hearing she had a responsibility for the safety of all her staff, noting workplace hazards included forklifts and reversing trucks. Furthermore, during interview the complainant was “hostile” and she doubted he would be a good fit.

Ms McGrath found the employer discriminated against the man under the Employment Equality Acts and s ordered the firm to pay him €5,500.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times