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Discrimination


Article contributed by
special arrangement with the
Equal Opportunities Commission.

Discrimination on the grounds of disability


Catherine started working as a technician in a large organization in 1997. She was very happy getting the job, as she was able to overcome the hindrance of her visual impairment. However, she soon felt disheartened. She thought that her supervisor was closely monitoring her work and felt the level of monitoring was different from that given to other new staff. Worse still, her supervisor circulated an internal memo on the mistakes she had made at work. Catherine felt publicly humiliated and was concerned about her job security. Subsequently, under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) she lodged a complaint at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) against her supervisor and her employer.

The EOC promptly contacted the respondents and explained to them that it might be unlawful under the DDO to treat a person with disability less favorably than someone without disability in comparable circumstances. Both respondents denied discrimination. However, the employer agreed that circulating the memo about Catherine's work mistakes and naming her was bad practice. Both respondents agreed to conciliate. The employer agreed to transfer Catherine to another section at her request.

To assist her work, the employer also agreed to provide "Reasonable Accommodation" in the form of an equipment, including a magnifying glass and computer software, which significantly enlarged font sizes on screen. The supervisor agreed to apologize in writing.

Good management practice:
When should Reasonable Accommodation be provided?

An employer should provide Reasonable Accommodation for a job applicant or an employee with a disability, unless the job in question requires absence of disability as a genuine occupational qualification. An employer is not obliged to employ a person with a disability if the latter cannot perform the inherent requirements of the job. However, the employer should not draw such a conclusion unless he or she has duly considered Reasonable Accommodation.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodation may include modifying work premises to make them more accessible to applicants or employees; or providing new equipment to someone with a disability, such as vision impairment, to help him/her perform the inherent requirements of the job.

Q & A about the Disability Discrimination Ordinance
Q1 I am a journalist and am dependent on a computer for my work. I have recently developed Repetitive Strain Injury in my hands, which can develop into a permanent disability if I continued to use the keyboard. My doctor recommended I use a voice-automated computer to minimize further damage to my injury. When I first discussed this possibility with my boss, he agreed to provide the equipment but later told me this might be difficult and indicated that I might be dismissed. Can my boss refuse to provide the equipment and dismiss me?
A1 Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), an employer is required to consider whether he/she could reasonably provide any special services or facilities to an employee with a disability to enable him/her to perform the inherent requirements of his/her job. If the employer dismisses the employee without making reasonable accommodation available, he/she may be in breach of the DDO unless he/she can show that providing Reasonable Accommodation would cause him/her unjustifiable hardship. In such case, he/she could claim exemption under the DDO.

Q2 What needs to be considered in determining if a person can carry out the inherent requirements of a job?
A2 In determining whether or not a person with a disability can carry out the inherent requirements of a job, an employer is required to take into account:

(a) the person's past training, qualifications and experience relevant to the particular employment;

(b) in the case of a serving employee, his/her work performance; and

(c) other relevant factors.

Hence, an employer should not assume that a person with a particular disability would not be able to do certain types of jobs. To claim the exception, the employer has to show in each case that, having considered all the factors mentioned above, the person with the disability would not be able to carry out the inherent requirements of the job. Alternatively, the employer has to show that, in order to carry out the inherent requirements of the job, the person would require Reasonable Accommodation, and that this would result in unjustifiable hardship to the employer.

   
 
Source : Equal Opportunities Commission


Taken from Career Times 05 July 2002

(Last review date: 23 August 2013)


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributor.

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