Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Paralympic sponsors settle job case

Carol Ann Armstrong was one of three workers who won their discrimination case against Topaz Energy (Pacemaker Press/PA)

Sponsors of the Irish Paralympic Team have paid almost £10,000 to settle a discrimination case taken by a disabled woman.

Carol Ann Armstrong, from Ballymena, Co Antrim, who has a disability because of a stroke, was one of three women paid £9,500 each after they were made redundant by fuel company Topaz Energy Ltd in July last year when the business made their part-time sales posts full-time. The women were unable to take on the new hours because of child care responsibilities.

Mrs Armstrong also brought a claim for disability discrimination because of the company's alleged failure to consider a reasonable adjustment to allow her to work part time. Topaz settled the claims without admitting liability or breach of equality law.

Mrs Armstrong and the two other claimants said: "We all felt that our employer had not given full consideration to arrangements that would allow us to continue to work, such as job sharing.

"We are pleased that this has been settled and hopefully this will help ensure that the same thing does not happen to other people who can only work part time."

The company sponsors the Irish Paralympic Team and its brand ambassador is sprinter Jason Smyth, the visually impaired athlete from Eglinton near Londonderry who took gold in the Paralympics 100m on Saturday after breaking his own world record.

According to the Equality Commission, Mrs Armstrong, Deirdre Cassidy from Londonderry and Kellie Quinn from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, were employed as part-time sales coordinators with Topaz Energy. They worked part-time because of child care responsibilities and Mrs Armstrong has been disabled by a stroke.

They were made redundant on July 1 last year following a decision by the company that it wanted their part time positions to become full time. They were offered the opportunity to apply for full-time positions but were unable to take them up because of their circumstances.

They challenged their dismissal on sex discrimination grounds because they believed that in selecting only those employees who worked part-time, the company was indirectly discriminating against women with childcare commitments. Mrs Armstrong also brought a claim for disability discrimination because of the company's failure to consider a reasonable adjustment to allow her to work part time.

A spokeswoman for Topaz said this case had shown up some procedural shortcomings at a time when it was restructuring its operations in Northern Ireland.

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