Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Reasonable Workplace Accommodation at Question in Supreme Court Case

Hand turning the word Disability into Ability with red marker isolated on white.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has been granted leave from the Supreme Court to exercise its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in a significant case on the rights of persons with disabilities to have reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

The case of Nano Nagle School v Marie Daly is being heard by the Supreme Court as it is of significant public importance. The case centres on Marie Daly, a Special Needs Assistant (‘SNA’) who had worked for the Nano Nagle School for children with learning and/or physical disabilities, since 1998. In 2010 she suffered an accident and after a period of rehabilitation, in 2011 she sought to return to work.

Following a review of expert reports, the School Board concluded that Ms Daly did not have the capacity to undertake the full set of duties associated with a SNA, and nor would she in the future and so decided not to permit her to return to work.

Ms Daly made a complaint to the former Equality Tribunal (now subsumed within the Workplace Relations Commission) on the basis that the School had failed to provide appropriate measures to accommodate her, as a person with a disability, to return to work contrary to section 16 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the case has proceeded by appeal through the courts and will now be heard by the Supreme Court.

As well as being Ireland’s National Equality Body, with Ireland’s ratification this year of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Commission will be the independent monitor of Ireland’s implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

The Commission is exercising our amicus curiae function in this case in light of the significance of the human rights and equality issues involved. The outcome of this case has significant implications, and will affect other people with disabilities in employment or seeking employment and the obligations that employers owe to them in the provision of reasonable accommodation.

“We know that people with disabilities are facing discrimination in accessing employment, and so clarity on the reasonable accommodation they can expect from potential or current employers is vital.”