Autistic man wins nation’s first payout for not wearing a mask during pandemic

A state constable ordered his first compensation for not wearing a mask during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), arbitrator Thomas O’Driscoll ordered a clinic to pay €3,000 compensation to an autistic patient over his complaint of discrimination related to not wearing a mask during Covid-19 brought under the aegis of the Equal Status Act.

As part of his order, Mr O’Driscoll ordered the clinic to ensure that all staff were made aware of their obligations under equal status laws, with particular emphasis on the need to reasonably accommodate patients with disabilities.

So far, all other disability discrimination claims over failure to wear masks have been dismissed by the WRC, with the vast majority of claimants unable to provide documentary evidence that they have a disability or do not did not disclose the nature of their disability on the same day. In the question.

In the case before Mr. O’Driscoll, the patient argued that he was autistic and that he had been discriminated against by the clinic by not accommodating him reasonably regarding the provision of medical services by insisting that he wears a mask. The clinic denied the discriminatory treatment, arguing instead that the refusal of medical service on the day in question was due to a breakdown in communication.

Facts of the case

Representing himself, the patient said he was referred to the clinic by his GP for an ultrasound. The patient received a phone call from the health care provider’s call center 12 days in advance, advising him that an appointment had been scheduled for him on December 14, 2020.

The man specifically asked if there would be any issues with his inability to wear a face covering as he has autism. The man said he was sure there wouldn’t be. However, when he arrived at the clinic on the appointed day, he was informed that the examination would not be carried out due to his inability to wear a face covering.

As part of his case, the man exhibited a letter on letterhead from the health care provider, signed by a senior manager, stating that he was not going to provide the service to him due to his incapacity. to wear a face mask.

The man made inquiries with two other medical establishments and was assured that he would be accommodated. He then had the ultrasound at one of these facilities where an appointment was made for him at a designated quiet time on a specific day, so that any risk could be contained to other patients and the personal.

CMR results

In his findings, Thomas O’Driscoll found that the clinic, in fact, admitted its inability to reasonably accommodate the patient. Mr O’Driscoll said the simple fact of the matter was that there had been no attempt to help the patient despite the clinic being fully aware of the nature of the man’s disability.

Mr O’Driscoll said there was no conflict of evidence as to the facts. He said the patient informed the clinic in a timely manner before the ultrasound that he could not wear a mask due to his autism.

The referee said the man had been assured it would be no problem by the clinic staff member, which on the face of it suggests his disability would be accommodated.

Mr O’Driscoll said: ‘However, it transpired that when he showed up on the day he was outright refused the service for which he had been booked, without any attempt on the part of the respondent to accommodate it. And this despite the assurances received previously.

“This refusal can be graphically contrasted with the treatment at another medical facility, when the plaintiff months later received his ultrasound scan without a mask following what appeared to be a no-cost schedule adjustment.”

Mr O’Driscoll said no evidence had been adduced that any consultation or analysis of alternatives to mask-wearing had been undertaken, despite the complainant’s clear request to be accommodated. He also noted that these events occurred during Tier 3 restrictions while the patient was housed shortly thereafter during the higher Tier 5 restrictions.

Mr O’Driscoll concluded that the patient had established a prima facie case of discrimination, namely the clinic’s refusal to reasonably accommodate his disability in breach of section 4 of the Equality Act 2000 of status.

Clinic Submission

The clinic did not dispute the facts as described by the plaintiff nor the fact that he suffered from a disability duly notified to the clinic before the appointment, as well as the day he was to present himself for an ultrasound. .

The clinic argued that there had been a misunderstanding between staff about the correct policy and the patient was unfortunately confused because of this.

A senior clinical manager at the clinic described the enormous pressures on staff during the unprecedented pandemic when the complainant visited the clinic. She said the mask-wearing policy has evolved as the pandemic has developed and that may explain the policy’s miscommunication.

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