A Complainant v National Training and Development Institute
ODEI - THE EQUALITY TRIBUNAL
File reference: EE/2001/099
EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACT, 1998
Equality – Discrimination – Preliminary issue – Whether complainant covered by 1998 Act - Employment Equality Act, 1998
The complaint here involved a claim complainant that he was discriminated against by the National Training and Development Institute (NTDI) on the ground of disability contrary to the provisions of the Employment Equality Act, 1998. The net point before the Tribunal was whether the 1998 Act applied to the complaint.
Held The Equality Officer determined that the complain was outside the scope of the 1988 Act and accordingly the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear it.
1 This dispute concerns a claim by a complainant that he was discriminated against by the National Training and Development Institute (NTDI) on the ground of disability contrary to the provisions of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 when he was refused permission to complete a course of vocational training in Roslyn Park College. As the investigation involved evidence of confidential medical and personal details relating to the complainant, his identity has been withheld in this decision.
1.2 The complainant referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations on 3 May 2001 under the Employment Equality Act, 1998. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of that Act, the Director then delegated the case to Anne-Marie Lynch, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Act. Submissions were sought from both parties and a joint hearing was held in March 2002.
2.1 The complainant was employed as a teacher of building construction. In 1992 he suffered a brain haemorrhage. Two years later he unsuccessfully underwent surgery for an embolectomy (surgical removal of a clot to clear an obstruction in an artery). He was diagnosed with diplopia (double vision) and it was determined he could no longer safely continue to work as a teacher, as he was required to use machinery. He subsequently retired on ill health pension.
2.2 In 1994, the complainant made contact with the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) and was assigned the assistance of a Vocational Officer. The Vocational Officer arranged for the complainant to undergo educational and psychological testing and it was decided that a course in Architectural Drafting and Computer Aided Design (CAD) at Roslyn Park College may be of benefit to him. This course began in September 1995.
2.3 The complainant said that within a short period he became dissatisfied with the course. He felt it was not as advertised, that it was not relevant to his needs and that it would not help in the rehabilitation that he required. He wrote to the College Director in January 1996 asking that he be transferred to a City & Guilds course in CAD, and says he did not receive a reply.
2.4 The complainant underwent a series of further assessments which indicated certain inherent difficulties. The complainant said that at this stage he felt his Vocational Officer had "apparently abandoned " him, and he wrote to express his dissatisfaction with the course. A meeting took place on 19 September 1996 to discuss the complainant's difficulties. Present were the complainant, his Vocational Officer, the College Director, the Head of Assessment at the College, the course instructor and the head instructor.
2.5 The complainant said that at this meeting he effectively had five professionals telling him he had brain damage and that nothing could be done for him. He said he was bullied into signing a release form and agreeing to leave to undertake a further assessment by a clinical psychologist. This assessment indicated that, while his language skills were largely unimpaired and some were above average, he had difficulties with performance tasks involving perceptual problems and constructional tasks. He also appeared to have impaired psychomotor speed. The assessment concluded that the complainant should not attempt to pursue a career in architectural drafting as the skills required for the course were precisely those in which he was most impaired.
2.6 The complainant received a letter from the Head of Assessment of the College, summarising the assessment and expressing regret that the difficulties he was having were not surmountable. The complainant said this letter effectively said he was unemployable, and he asserted that these difficulties had not been apparent in his earlier assessments. He said it appeared he had regressed during a period of what was supposed to be rehabilitation.
2.7 The complainant said he went through a period of severe depression following the end of the course. During 2000, the NTDI advertised extensively for people who had lost their jobs through disability to apply for vocational training. In January 2001, the complainant wrote to the current Director of the College asking to be included in the next available course so that he could complete his course of training, hopefully obtain employment and cease to be a burden on the State. The College Director's reply in February 2001 referred to earlier letters of the complainant where he had stated that his experience in the college led him to believe that to continue with the course would "lead to a further deterioration of his health and erosion of his confidence".
2.8 The complainant said that at the time he wrote this he was suffering from depression. He said that the College Director was using concern for his health as a metaphor for disability and that he was therefore discriminated against on the ground of his disability in being refused permission to complete his course of vocational training.
3.1 The respondent said that Roslyn Park College is part of the National Training and Development Institute, which in turn in part of the Rehab Group. The Rehab Group is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, which (as the Rehabilitation Institute) has been providing services for people with learning, physical and psychiatric disabilities for fifty years. Roslyn Park College provides vocational rehabilitation across a wide range of courses to approximately 200 people with disabilities. These courses are externally certified by bodies such as CERT, NCVA and City & Guilds. The services provided by the college are funded and monitored by FÁS and the college is accredited by the National Accreditation Committee, the State body is responsible for vocational rehabilitation standards in Ireland.
3.2 It was the respondent's position that this matter related to the complainant's discharge from Roslyn Park college in January 1997, preceding the enactment of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 on 18 October 1999. Subsequent correspondence with the complainant, and in particular in January 2001, merely reiterated the decisions reached in 1997. Therefore the respondent believed the complainant could not have a legitimate claim against NTDI under the 1998 Act.
3.3 Notwithstanding this preliminary point, the respondent asserted that in accordance with section 16 (1) (b) of the 1998 Act the complainant was not discriminated against in any way, and it outlined the events leading to the decision taken in 1997 to effect his discharge from the college. This decision led the college to reasonably believe in February 2001 that it would not be in a position to offer the complainant a place on the Architectural Drafting and Computer Aided Design Course.
3.4 The complainant was offered a place on the course in September 1994 following standard college entry processes. By December 1994 he had begun to express dissatisfaction with the course, feeling it did not meet his needs. He was also critical of...
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