An Post (Represented by Mr Cathal McGreal BL; as Instructed by Mr Paul Carroll, Solicitor, an Post) v Claire Stephens

Judgment Date17 December 2018
Judgment citation (vLex)[2018] 12 JIEC 1701
Date17 December 2018
CourtLabour Court (Ireland)

Labour Court





An Post (Represented by Mr Cathal McGreal BL; as Instructed by Mr Paul Carroll, Solicitor, An Post)
Claire Stephens

Chairman: Ms Jenkinson

Employer Member: Ms Doyle

Worker Member: Ms Treacy



1. Appeal of Adjudication Officer’s Decision No: DEC-E2018-005.


2. The Worker appealed the Decision of the Adjudication Officer to the Labour Court in accordance with section 83(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 to 2015. A Labour Court hearing took place on 25 October 2018. The following is the Determination of the Court:


This is an appeal by Ms Claire Stephens against the Decision of an Adjudication Officer/Equality Officer under the Employment Equality Act, 1998 – 2011 (the Act) in her claim of discrimination on the disability ground by her employer, An Post when it failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation to allow her attend meetings with management. The Adjudication Officer/Equality Officer in Decision no DEC-E2018-005 found that the Complainant’s complaint was not well-founded.


For ease of reference the parties are given the same designations as they had at first instance. Hence Ms Claire Stephens will be referred to as “the Complainant” and An Post will be referred to as “the Respondent”.


This appeal was heard at the same time as a number of other appeals submitted to the Court by the Complainant. Extensive submissions and documentation were submitted in the course of the appeal which the Court has summarised in this Determination.


The Complainant was employed by the Respondent as a Postal Operative in the Galway Mail Centre from 11th June 2001. She worked 37 1/2 hours per week on nights, over five nights per week. The Complainants employment terminated on 5 th February 2016 (post the claim under the Act).


On 22 nd January 2015 the Complainant referred a claim under the Act to the then Equality Tribunal. The Adjudication Officer/Equality Officer issued his Decision on 26 th January 2018, the Complainant appealed the Decision to this Court on 31 st January 2018.

Summary of the Complainant’s Case

The Complainant appeared before the Court as an unrepresented party. She told the Court that since 2006 she suffers from agoraphobia and gaze aversion. She alleged that the Respondent failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her agoraphobia to allow her attend meetings with management.


The Complainant said that she instigated legal action against the Respondent on 26th May 2014. On 20th June 2014, her GP filled out Medical Form B of the Injuries Board, for her Personal Injury claim in the High Court. In this form her GP wrote: “Injuries Sustained — Agoraphobia, Present Complaints — remains unable to go anywhere bar her place of work and for medical appointments”.


The Complainant said that in November 2014 when she was involved in disciplinary proceedings with the Respondent, where her dismissal was under consideration she requested reasonable accommodation from the Respondent for her agoraphobia. By letter dated 28th November 2014 to the Respondent she sought a disciplinary hearing to be held in the Galway Mail Centre. She said that as the CMO of the Respondent had travelled from Dublin to Galway to see her in May 2014 she expected to receive the same accommodation in November 2014. By letter dated 1 st December 2014, the Respondent informed her that disciplinary hearings were not normally held in Operational Units, they were generally held in the GPO Dublin, however, in her case they were willing to travel to Galway, however, the meeting would be held not in the Galway Mail Centre but in the Respondent’s Regional Office.


The Complainant stated that she could not attend at the Galway Regional Office due to her agoraphobia.


On 8th December 2014 the Respondent sought advice from the CMO. On 9th December 2014, the CMO informed the Respondent that “based on the information within my records, my previous assessment of her and also the knowledge that she attended an appointment in Dublin when she had the same medical condition” he confirmed that she was fit to attend in the Galway Regional Office for the disciplinary hearing. This, she said, really surprised her, as the CMO had already accommodated her by travelling to Galway to assess her in May 2014 and he had only assessed her once, that was in May 2014.


Taking on board the CMO’s advice the Respondent wrote to her on 11th December 2014, advising her that the disciplinary hearing was scheduled for the 8 th January 2015, in their Regional Office in Galway. Then on 14th December 2014 she wrote to Ms Lillian Jones, HR Dublin, stating that for the seventh time she was asking for reasonable accommodation for her agoraphobia.


The Complainant said that she was amazed to receive a letter dated 18th December 2014 from the Respondent requesting her to provide medical evidence of her fitness to engage in the disciplinary process, even though she was not out sick at the time, (she was on paid special leave).


On 22nd December 2014, she wrote to the CMO, Dr O’Reilly, and furnished him with a Medical Form B prepared for the Injuries Board where her GP had stated that the suffered from agoraphobia and she also offered to meet with him to aid his diagnosis. She also wrote to Ms Lillian Jones, HR Dublin, on the same date, pointing out, that the CMO had a report from her GP and from Dr Sheehan along with the Injuries Board Medical Form B. she again sought the Respondent to attend the Galway Mail Centre for the disciplinary hearing.


On 5th January 2015 the CMO advised the Respondent that having reviewed the Injuries Board Medical Form B, he remained of the view that the Complainant could attend Galway Regional Office. The Complainant was baffled by this and could not understand his reasoning as her own GP was fully aware of her condition, which the CMO ignored. She surmised that he had come to this conclusion as she had attended Dr Sheehan at his offices in Dublin for a psychiatric assessment, which she said she was forced to attend by the CMO. She said that when she attended at Dr Sheehan’s office in Dublin, she had had to take a mix of tranquillers and alcohol in order to deal...

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