Northern Ireland

Disabled woman gets £7,500 for discrimination

A County Londonderry woman has been awarded £7,500 after a tribunal found she had suffered discrimination because of her disability.

Margaret Mary O'Neill, 31, from Knockloughrim, Magherafelt, took a case against the Department for Social Development.

An employment tribunal in Belfast found the DSD had discriminated against her.

The tribunal found the DSD operated a transfer policy which gave priority to non-disabled staff over disabled staff.

The award was made for injury to feelings.

Ms O'Neill, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, had been working in Belfast and had requested a transfer closer to her County Londonderry home.

However, she was never offered a transfer opportunity in any of the three areas of her choice.

Speaking after the tribunal's decision, Ms O'Neill said: "I am just so happy that this case has come to an end. This has been the most stressful period of my life and has been a very long and drawn-out process.

"I would definitely encourage other people in a similar situation to me to take cases. I now hope my employer will make adjustments and create workplaces more suitable for people with disabilities."

Ms O'Neill said a scheme that allowed her to get a taxi to work would eventually run out and she would then not be able to get from her home in Magherafelt to Belfast - therefore if she does not get a transfer, she will then lose her job.

Ms O'Neill's solicitor, Stephen Mearns, of John Ross & Co, Newtownards, said the ruling would have implications for disabled staff throughout the civil service in Northern Ireland.

The tribunal found that according to the current procedures, people who are surplus to requirements in their existing work location, are given priority over people with disabilities.

"The practical effect was to give redeployment advantage to surplus staff over disabled staff," Mr Mearns explained.

"What the tribunal found was that the DSD was not making a reasonable adjustment for disabled staff."