Northern Ireland

Man with hearing impairment settles disability discrimination case against DAERA for £50,000

Crawfordsburn Country Park. Picture from Google Maps
Christopher Morrow worked as a park ranger at Crawfordsburn Country Park in Co Down. PICTURE: GOOGLE MAPS

A man with a hearing impairment has settled a disability discrimination case against the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for £50,000.

Christopher Morrow worked as a park ranger at Crawfordsburn Country Park in Co Down, through an agency, for over three years from 2018.

With moderate to severe hearing loss, he wears hearing aids in both ears and reads facial expressions and body language. His proximity to others and layout and acoustics of his surroundings can also make it hard for him to hear.

Mr Morrow applied for a position as a permanent park ranger and indicated his disability on his application form.

Before his interview he asked a manager if it was possible to have the interview questions in front of him in written form during the interview to help him hear the questions and answer without having to ask for them to be repeated.

This request was immediately refused.

He emailed the human resources department to ask them to ensure all panel members were aware of his disability.

In February 2021, Mr Morrow went for interview, but the room was large, with a wooden floor and high ceiling. Panel members were seated behind a screen about 15 to 20 feet away from him.

Mr Morrow said a panel member talked with his head down and spoke very quickly. He found hearing difficult in this environment and the interview panel members did not ask him if he needed any adjustments.

Fifteen park rangers were appointed, but he was not one of them. Feedback from his interview included the comment ‘candidate asked for multiple repetitions of questions meaning the interview ran over time’.

Mr Morrow said: “I tried on several occasions to make DAERA aware of my disability and requested some simple adjustments at interview that would have really helped me in the recruitment process.

“I was very disappointed indeed that I missed out on the opportunity for a permanent position in a job I really enjoyed.”

Supported by the Equality Commission, Mr Morrow took a case against DEARA, which has paid £50,000 without admission of liability.

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer, Equality Commission
Mary Kitson, senior legal officer, Equality Commission

Mary Kitson from the Equality Commission, said: “The Disability Discrimination Act requires employers to introduce reasonable adjustments to recruitment and selection procedures for applicants with disabilities, to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged.

“The purpose of the duty is to enable job applicants who have disabilities to enjoy the same opportunities as all other candidates to obtain and remain in work.”

A DAERA spokesperson said: “It is not appropriate to comment on individual employment matters. DAERA will closely consider the outcome of this case, working with the Equality Commission NI, and implement any lessons learned.”