Northern Ireland disability discrimination case ends in £20,000 settlement

Northern Ireland disability discrimination case ends in £20,000 settlement

Mark Graham

A sales representative for construction industry supplier Haldane Fisher has settled a disability discrimination case for £20,000 with support from the Equality Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

The case brought by Mark Graham, who worked for the business for 28 years, was settled through mediation and without any admission of liability by Haldane Fisher.

Mr Graham was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017. After a period of sick leave, he returned to work. He was then diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, which affected his hearing.

In October 2019, Haldane Fisher offered Mr Graham the position of area merchant sales representative for the Republic of Ireland.

In May 2021, following Covid, the company indicated they wished all external sales representatives to be back out on the road.

Due to ongoing restrictions south of the border and his vulnerable person status, Mr Graham had planned to resume in-person meetings at the end of that month.

Over the following months, Mr Graham’s employer held two sets of meetings with him which included an investigation into him not being out on the road, but no disciplinary action was taken.

Mr Graham was left feeling distressed and then took a period of sick leave. He lodged a grievance, which was not upheld.

He then asked for a reasonable adjustment to his working pattern. He requested to work three days per week meeting customers and two days working from home.

According to Mr Graham, this was declined and he was offered four days on the road and one day in the office on a trial basis for one month. However, if sales figures fell, he was to revert to five days on the road.

At the end of this month-long trial, he alleged that there was no review of the arrangement. By October 2022, he felt that he had no alternative but to resign due to the impact on his health of the amount of time he was on the road.

Commenting on the settlement, Eoin O’Neill, director of legal services at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said: “Employees with disabilities should be supported in the workplace.

“The legislation requires employers to fully consider requests for reasonable adjustments to help their disabled employees to remain in work and this might include offering alternative working patterns. Failure to do so can make employers subject to challenge through the courts.”

As part of the settlement, Haldane Fisher has reaffirmed its strong commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment and agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission to review its policies and procedures to ensure they conform to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The case was settled without admission of liability in November 2023, but only publicised by the Equality Commission today.

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