During the course of your employment you may be asked to sign certain employment documentation, such as a contract of employment or a health and safety statement, and it is important that you fully understand what you are signing and the consequences of signing such a document. This is particularly important if your employment is being terminated, as was shown in the Equality Tribunal case of Cliona Love v St. James Hospital.
If you are in doubt about something that you have been asked to sign in work, or if you have already signed something in work and are now afraid of the subsequent consequences, then please do not hesitate to contact us.
In Cliona Love v St. James Hospital the Claimant was a 55 year old woman with an intellectual disability who was employed as a domestic in the Respondent’s hospital. In August 2013, the Claimant attended an occupational health physician and was informed that she was permanently unfit for work due to a physical health issue. The Claimant did not fully understand what was happening and so her father was contacted and the doctor explained the position to him.
On the 6 September 2013, the Claimant received a letter from HR confirming the termination of employment and enclosed with the letter were a number of standard retirement forms for the Claimant to compete, which she did not do. A farewell event was subsequently arranged for the Claimant and while she was attending this event the Claimant was brought by management into an office and told to sign the retirement forms, which included a resignation form. Initially the Claimant refused to do so as her father had told her not to sign anything but after being pressurised by HR the Claimant then signed the forms.
Several days later, the Claimant’s father met with the HR Deputy Director to express his dissatisfaction in what had happened and he was then informed of the Claimant’s right to appeal the medical opinion, which the Claimant did not avail of.
The Tribunal noted that the Claimant had an intellectual disability and therefore there was a greater onus on the Respondent to ensure that the Claimant fully understood what she was signing and the consequences that could arise. The Tribunal was also critical of the fact that the Claimant was required to sign a resignation form by management at her farewell event, despite the fact that the Claimant had stated that she did not wish to sign anything. The Tribunal noted that the Respondent had failed to establish if special measures could have been put in place for the Claimant before terminating her employment and accordingly the Claimant was found to have been discriminatorily dismissed and that the Respondent had failed to provide reasonable accommodation, awarding the Claimant €17,000 in compensation.
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