Important Supreme Court ruling on the rights of people with disabilities to reasonable workplace accommodation

Down Syndrome Ireland welcomes the Supreme Court Ruling in the case of Daly v. Nano Nagle on the rights of people with disabilities to reasonable workplace accommodation. This landmark case references the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) regarding the prohibition of discrimination, the dignity and the right to work of people with disabilities. This judgement is significant as it moves away from viewing disability as a medical issue and towards respecting the inherent dignity of all as laid out in the UNCRPD.

We have fought for these rights for many years. Our Ability programme is breaking down barriers to employment and this ruling sends a clear message to employers regarding their obligations under our equality legislation.

The Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission were involved in the case as an amicus curiae (friend of the court). Their Chief Commissioner, Emily Logan stated “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is progressive and will have a significant impact for Marie Daly and the many other people with disabilities across Ireland, whether remaining in work or seeking access to employment. The Commission… emphasised the connection between work and the dignity and freedom of the person, and the Supreme Court has today recognised the right of persons with a disability to be treated with respect for their inherent dignity.”

The case was first brought before the Equality Tribunal (now the Work Relations Commission) as a result of Marie Daly’s employer’s refusal to let her return to work, after she acquired a physical disability, on the basis she could no longer fulfil most of her duties. The Equality Officer found in favour of the school. This decision was overturned when appealed to the Labour Court then upheld by the High Court before the Court of Appeal overturned this decision and upheld the school’s appeal. 

The Supreme Court ruling clarified that reasonable accommodation can include the reorganisation of ‘tasks’ or ‘duties’ as long as it does not place a ‘disproportionate burden’ on the employer.

The ruling also states that while it is not mandatory under the law and does not constitute discrimination if it does not occur “a wise employer will provide meaningful participation” with the person seeking the reasonable accommodation.

The ruling returns the case to the Labour Court for further consideration. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Justice John MacMenamin stated that “The issues are important for employees who are disabled, but also for employers, who must know their duties.”

The full Judgement can be accessed here.

Read the IHRECs statement here.


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