Mother wins disability discrimination case
A woman who lost her job at a Belfast advice centre has been awarded £18,886 in damages, after being discriminated against.
A tribunal found Maria McKeith's dismissal from the Ardoyne Association was linked to her role as primary carer for her disabled daughter.
This was contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it said.
Ms McKeith worked part-time for the association from 2010 until she was dismissed in March 2015.
The tribunal said she had been unfairly dismissed and that the Ardoyne Association "did not put forward any convincing or coherent explanation for its decision".
In her managers' minds, "because the claimant had a disabled child, her position was not properly in the workplace. Her daughter was 'her priority'," it ruled.
"That is not the legal position," it said. "People who are disabled themselves, or who are the primary carer of a disabled person, have a right to work within the protection afforded by the 1995 Act."
The finding was appealed by the Ardoyne Association but the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
Maria McKeith said she was left in shock when she was made redundant.
"I did not ask for any special treatment and I did not welcome it," she said.
"I enjoyed coming to work, meeting people and being able to advise and help them and I knew my daughter was being cared for while I was at work.
The tribunal awarded her £10,000 for injury to feelings, £6,760 for loss of earnings, and a total of £2,126 in interest.
Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission said employers needed to be aware of their responsibilities.
"The Disability Discrimination Act protects people against discrimination because of their disability," he said.
It also protects people in Ms McKeith's position, who have a role as primary carer for a disabled person.
"In this case, Ms McKeith was denied the opportunity to work as a result of her daughter's disability," he said.
"The law makes such discrimination unlawful.
"It is important also, as was referenced in these proceedings, to highlight that the purpose of the law is to assist disabled people and their primary carers to obtain work and to integrate them in to the workplace.
"That is not a matter simply of money, but the dignity of, and the respect due to, the people concerned."