Man with dyspraxia unfairly dismissed after Google search about disorder

Sky Handling Partner ordered to pay former worker €15,000 over discriminatory decision

A decision by a company to discrimatorily dismiss a man with dyspraxia was informed by a health and safety officer carrying out a Google search on the disorder, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has heard. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

A decision by a company to discrimatorily dismiss a man with dyspraxia was informed by a health and safety officer carrying out a Google search on the disorder, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has heard. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

A decision by a company to dismiss a man with dyspraxia was informed by a health and safety officer carrying out a Google search on the disorder, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has heard.

The commission ordered Sky Handling Partner Ltd, which is based at Dublin airport, to pay €15,000 in compensation to Stephen Dunne over his discriminatory dismissal from his role as an aircraft service agent in April of last year.

The decision followed a report by the company’s health and safety officer, referred to as Mr B, which concluded that Mr Dunne was “not suitable for a position within the ramp department” at the airport. He was dismissed without formal explanation only a month into his employment.

“Dublin Airport can be a hazardous environment due to the large amount of aircraft traffic every day…As Stephen is suffering from dyspraxia, this may place him more at risk by working in an already hazardous environment. Spatial awareness is a vital key within this role and everybody within the airport always needs to be aware of what is happening around them,” he said.

Dyspraxia is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination and individuals vary in how its impacts on them.

Mr Dunne took a case over his dismissal with the assistance of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and told the hearing that he holds a full driver licence and drives all the time without issue.

‘Assumptions’

WRC adjudication officer Valerie Murtagh said the report carried out by Mr B was “grounded on assumptions and generalisations about persons with dyspraxia but is not grounded on actual facts about the complainant’s specific condition”. Mr B told Ms Ms Murtagh at the hearing that his research on the disorder involved doing a ‘Google’ search on his computer.

“It is quite astonishing, in my opinion, that Mr B compiled a report on the complainant without ever having met him or obtaining expert independent advice on the specifics of the complainant’s condition,” Ms Murtagh said.

She found that Sky Handling Partner had failed to provide Mr Dunne with reasonable accommodation related to his disability and that he was discriminatorily dismissed on the grounds of his disability.

Mr Dunne had contended that Mr B’s report was based entirely on speculation not grounded on facts about persons with dyspraxia and in particular on any actual facts about him.

Sky Handling Partner told the WRC that Mr Dunne did not complete the required training for the position and therefore could not conduct the role for which he was employed.

Along with ordering Sky Handling Partner pay Mr Dunne €15,000, Ms Murtagh ruled that the firm must conduct a review of its employment policies and practices to ensure compliance with the Employment Equality Acts.