Design engineer dismissed over stammer awarded €15,000 compensation

Worker said his boss told him his designs were good but ‘it’s the communication thing’

The  WRC found the unnamed firm had on the balance of probabilities terminated the man’s contract ‘more because of his disability than performance’

The WRC found the unnamed firm had on the balance of probabilities terminated the man’s contract ‘more because of his disability than performance’

 

A design engineer for an agricultural machinery manufacturer who was discriminatorily dismissed over his stammer has been awarded €15,000 compensation.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found the unnamed firm had on the balance of probabilities terminated the man’s contract “more because of his disability than performance”.

The man, who had more than 30 years factory experience – got the job in August 2016 after an interview, where the firm learned that he had a speech impediment.

The firm produces grass-cutting machines and slurry/water tankers. Less than 12 months after he joined, however, the man’s boss told him: “We’re parting company. It’s not working out.”

However, the worker said he had been told that the company was happy with his work, that all his projects were great and that the sales people were happy with him.

Impractical

Replying, his boss, the worker said, told him that his designs were good but “it’s the whole communication thing. I need someone who can communicate with the dealers and customers”.

During his time with the firm, the man’s boss said that he had heard about a “text to speech” iPad communications app. The engineer tried it, but found it to be impractical.

It took longer to turn it on, swipe the screen, type the words and press “go” than it did to say it with his stammer, he said, adding that the app’s volume was too low to be useful in a factory.

He said he was “in complete shock” when he was sacked. The firm told the WRC that it had told him at the July meeting that he was being let go because of persistent shortcomings in his design drawings.

Denying strongly that it had not tried to accommodate him, the firm said it had made every effort. His speech impediment did not affect his job because 95 per cent of his job was non-verbal.

The man agreed that that was so, it said. Instead, his contract had not been extended because he was not able to design tanks correctly and had caused the firm losses.

During the hearing, the worker produced a text from one manager shocked by his sacking: “I can’t understand why . . . I’m shocked, genuinely . . . I’m at a loss to understand their reasons . . . I always said you were getting on great.”

The text, said the adjudication officer, Mr Ray Flaherty, cast further doubt on the bona fides of the firm’s contention that the man’s dismissal was genuinely related to poor performance.